The ACLU wants the money it spent suing Kim Davis back, please and thank you

Around this time last year, Kim Davis, martyr-Queen of homophobic bigots across the nation, was being sued for refusing to offer marriage licenses to gay couples seeking to get married in her state of Kentucky. Her opposition to gay marriage was annoying, but the real issue was that no one was forcing her to work a government job that required her to apply the law equally. Personal beliefs are never grounds for discrimination, least of all in a public sector job. At any rate, here we are a year later, and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers are suing for their money back after they represented four couples against Davis.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed a motion earlier this week to “recoup more than $200,000 in legal fees” spent in the process of suing Davis, according to a statement from the ACLU of Kentucky.

“It is unfortunate that an elected official sought to use her office to withhold government services on the basis of her religious beliefs,” ACLU of Kentucky executive director Michael Aldridge wrote. “And it is equally regrettable that the county may now have to pay for her misuse of that office and her refusal to comply with the court’s orders.”

According to the ACLU of Kentucky, the repayment isn’t being sought to fulfill financial greed, but would be used to “deter future civil rights violations by government officials,” writes legal director William Sharp. “By filing today’s motion, we hope to achieve that very objective — to send a message to government officials that willful violations of individuals’ rights will be costly.”

The organization makes a fair point. It shouldn’t cost $233,058 in attorney fees and other costs to stand up for gay people denied their rights under the law by some intolerant county clerk. The ACLU takes on all kinds of civil rights and social justice cases, and that $233,058, which really shouldn’t have had to be spent in the first place, could do a lot.

The case was dismissed after a change in state law removed the requirement for Kentucky marriage license forms to be signed by county clerks.

kim davis mugshot

It’s worth noting that the ACLU isn’t calling on Davis to personally pay the fees, and that this is hardly a crazy, demanding request. At any rate, as legal director Sharp wrote in the ACLU’s Monday statement: “Courts recognize that when successful civil rights plaintiffs obtain a direct benefit from a court-ordered victory, such as in this case, they can be entitled to their legal expenses to deter future civil rights violations by government officials.”