Yates Jury in Kim Davis Case Renders Zero Damages Verdict

Sep 13, 2023

ASHLAND, KY – In the trial before U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, the jury in Yates v. Davis returned a verdict of zero damages against former Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis. The plaintiffs originally asked for $300,000 in damages. The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes before returning the verdict. 

Two juries were empaneled during the trial, one in the case of Yates v. Davis, and the second in Ermold v. Davis, is still deliberating. 

The Ermold and Yates cases each involve a same-sex couple who sued Davis in 2015 following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision regarding “same-sex marriage.” The district court entered judgment against Davis in both cases, holding that she is personally liable to the plaintiffs by not issuing marriage licenses during the pendency of her request for religious accommodation. 

Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel Daniel Schmid and Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet argued on Davis’ behalf as well as local counsel, AC Donahue.

Liberty Counsel argues that Davis is not liable for any damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation from issuing marriage licenses under her name and authority that conflict with her religious beliefs. When the newly elected Republican Governor Matt Bevin took office in December 2015, he granted religious accommodation to all clerks by Executive Order. Then in April 2016, the legislature unanimously granted religious and conscience accommodation to all clerks from issuing marriage licenses that conflict with their religious beliefs. 

However, Davis was entitled to an accommodation of her sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage under both the First Amendment and Kentucky law and she should not be held liable for requesting an accommodation, which she did receive in December 2015. 

Moreover, the plaintiffs suffered no damages because they could have obtained marriage licenses from any nearby clerk’s office. The plaintiffs instead created a shame case by intentionally targeting Kim Davis because of her religious beliefs. 

This case has the potential to go to the U.S. Supreme Court where Kim Davis will argue for religious freedom and also that Obergefell should be overturned. Three of the five justices in the Obergefell majority are no longer on the Court. 

Mihet said, “We are grateful and relieved that one of the two juries has provided Kim Davis with the complete vindication that she has been waiting for so long to receive. We are prayerfully awaiting the result from the second jury.” 

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