Same-sex couple in Kentucky denied marriage licenses from county clerk awarded $100,000 in damages

CNN  — 

A same-sex couple in Kentucky who were denied marriage licenses by former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was awarded $100,000 in damages by a federal jury, according to court documents.

David Ermold and David Moore – who each received $50,000 on Wednesday – sued Davis after being denied marriage licenses multiple times by Davis or her office, CNN previously reported.

Joe Buckles, one of the attorneys for the couple, told CNN affiliate WKYT: “This is just complete vindication. They felt the weight of the world on them this week and for the last eight years.”

Davis in 2015 refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the US Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage. She held that issuing the licenses would violate her Christian convictions against same-sex marriage.

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver, one of Davis’ attorneys, said, “We look forward to appealing this decision and taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kim Davis has blazed the trail in Kentucky where she has obtained religious freedom for all clerks. Now it is time to extend that freedom to everyone, and that is what Liberty Counsel intends to do.”

James Yates and William Smith, who also sued Davis after being denied marriage licenses multiple times, were awarded no damages on Wednesday in their parallel case against Davis, which was tried in tandem with the Ermold-Moore case, according to court documents.

“Two juries heard the same evidence and the same arguments, and only one jury returned a verdict that was based on the facts and the evidence presented at trial,” Daniel Schmid, senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel and one of Davis’ attorneys, told CNN via email. “In the Yates case, the jury returned a verdict of $0.00 because that is what the evidence required.”

“Without any evidentiary support, the Ermold jury reached a verdict of $50,000 for each plaintiff. The evidence presented at trial simply does not support that verdict, and Ms. Davis will be filing a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict next week,” Schmid said. “Ms. Davis trusts that the courts reviewing the evidence presented will see that the Ermold verdict lacks any evidentiary support and will agree with the Yates jury that the plaintiffs are entitled to no damages whatsoever.”

In 2015, David Ermold, right, attempts to hand Rowan County clerks a copy of the ruling from U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning instructing the county to start issuing marriage licenses.

In 2015, US District Judge David Bunning declared Davis in contempt of court and ordered her to jail until she complied.

Davis served five days in jail after Bunning was satisfied that Davis’ deputies were fulfilling their obligation to issue same-sex marriage licenses, but Bunning issued an order saying Davis could not interfere.

In March 2022, amid a lawsuit brought by the two couples, Bunning wrote in a memorandum and opinion, “It is this Court’s opinion that Davis violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to marry and the only remaining issue is the issue of damages.”

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Yates and Smith but has not yet heard back.

Davis lost her reelection bid in 2018.

CNN’s Marlon Sorto contributed to this report.


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