Republican candidates join calls to 'free Kim Davis'

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have scheduled separately to visit the Rowan County (Ky.) clerk in jail where she has been held since Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Joe Gerth/The Courier-Journal/AP
Supporters of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis hold up signs in support of her, outside the Carter County Detention Center, Saturday, in Grayson, Ky. Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, the vast majority of officials have abided by that ruling. However, Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight, in defiance of a federal court order, and was sent to jail on Thursday.

The debate over same sex marriage and religious liberties has come to a head in Kentucky with the jailing of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and presidential candidates are now jumping into the fray. 

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee joins fellow GOP candidates Rick Santorum and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in calls for Ms. Davis to be freed. Mr. Santorum praised Davis in an interview with CNN, calling her “heroic.” He went on to say that the Supreme Court had acted “unconstitutionally” for denying Davis’ appeals.

Mr. Huckabee plans to join protesters outside the jail where Davis has been held since Sept. 3 for refusing to comply with several court orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  He also plans a private meeting with Davis. Her lawyers spent Labor Day weekend filing appeals in an effort to force her release, but she remains there on charges for contempt of court.

Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, says Davis is simply exercising her religious freedom by denying the marriage licenses.

Senator Cruz, an outspoken defender of religious liberties, released a statement on his official website calling "upon every Believer, every Constitutionalist, every lover of liberty to stand with Kim Davis.” He will also be visiting Davis in jail, The Washington Post reports, but will not join the protesters outside the jail where she is being held.

However, not all GOP candidates support Davis' decision to defy court orders.

“You have to go with it," current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday. "The decision's been made, and that is the law of the land.” He declined to comment further, remarking that he was not very familiar with the issue at hand.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for his part, told the FOX News program “Fox and Friends” that he would move Davis to a different job, one “where her religious concerns are not going to be put into the cross hairs. So we have to have respect for people, but the government also has to function."

The US Supreme Court ruled in late June that marriage rights must be extended to same-sex couples in all 50 states in the landmark Obergefell decision. However, in Kentucky, prohibition of gay marriage has not yet been lifted from the state law books. Davis' attorneys have said that the only way she would relent would be to change Kentucky's state law so that marriage licenses are not issued under the authority of the county clerk. They claim the licenses that have been issued under her deputy clerks’ authority are not valid because she has not signed them.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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