On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jim Bunning ruled that Kentucky must pay anti-gay marriage clerk Kim Davis' legal fees in her court battle over her right to deny a same-sex couple a marriage license. Kentucky taxpayers will foot the $222,695 bill for her lawyer fees, along with an additional $2,008.08 "in costs."
Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, made national headlines in June 2015 when, after marriage was legalized in all 50 states, she announced plans to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. "Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples," Bunning wrote in his decision. "The buck stops there."
Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio explained the ruling to NPR. "The court said the state should be held responsible because Kentucky officials had the right to take action against Davis, but didn't."
In 2015, Bunning ordered that Davis be jailed for five days for her refusal to issue licenses. She was met with a large crowd of supporters, including then-Republican presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who praised her for upholding Christian values.
“I am tired of watching people being just harassed because they believe something of their faith, and we cannot criminalize the Christian faith or any faith in this country,” Huckabee said said at the time. “I pray that there will be remedies that do not involve putting someone in jail for their convictions. If somebody needs to go to jail, I am willing to go in her place, and I mean that.”
Though Bunning's ruling is bad news for Kentucky taxpayers, Davis was not the victor in the lawsuit in question. “In this case, the plaintiffs ‘prevailed by every measure of victory,'" Bunning wrote in his decision. “Plaintiffs obtained marriage licenses that could not be revoked. And two of the plaintiff-couples married on those licenses. That is enduring relief.” The four couples were also granted lawyers' fees.
Davis' lawyer responded to the news by saying he was "pleased" his client would not bear the burden of paying for the legal fees. He added that “the part of the ruling that finds the plaintiffs were prevailing parties is contrary to the law.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, who represented the four couples who sued Davis, released a statement responding to Bunning's ruling. "It is unfortunate that Kentucky taxpayers will likely bear the financial burden of the unlawful actions and litigation strategies of an elected official, but those same voters are free to take that information into account at the ballot box," William Sharp, legal director of Kentucky's ACLU chapter, said.