The US Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a former county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples under her name because of her religious beliefs.
Kim Davis, a devout Christian who was the former Rowan County Clerk, was jailed for five days in 2015 after she was sued over her decision to defy a judge’s order and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis sought to have the case dismissed, pointing out that she should be shielded from civil lawsuits under qualified immunity – a local doctrine that shields government officials from liability in certain cases – but the lower courts allowed the dispute to move forward.
The case comes after the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the court ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry.
However, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said in an opinion released on Monday that the Obergefell v. Hodges case resulted in “ruinous consequences” for religious liberty.
“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last,” the two wrote.
Thomas said that the Obergefell decision left “those with religious objections in the lurch” and gave the public a reason to label them as bigots “merely for refusing to alter their religious beliefs in the wake of prevailing orthodoxy.”
Despite that, the justices agreed to reject Davis’ appeal for a number of technical reasons, which includes rejecting her argument that she is protected by qualified immunity.
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that Davis could be sued in her individual capacity in her former role as county clerk.
Davis, however, argued that she stopped issuing marriage licenses to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, and they could have applied and obtained licenses everywhere.