Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will join protesters at a Tuesday rally outside the jail where a Kentucky clerk is locked in a cell over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Huckabee plans a private meeting with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed by a federal judge Thursday after defying several court orders. Her lawyers spent Labor Day weekend filing appeals in an effort to force her release, but she remains there on a contempt charge.
Huckabee, a former Baptist minister who often reaches out to religious conservatives, says Davis is simply exercising her religious freedom by denying the marriage licenses.
Davis' jailing offers the many Republican presidential candidates an opportunity to appeal to the GOP's evangelical Christian wing, which opposes same-sex marriage and casts Davis' imprisonment as an issue of religious freedom.
Another Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, plays to visit Davis Tuesday. Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier says the Texas senator will meet with the Rowan County clerk on Tuesday afternoon. But Cruz will not be attending the 3 p.m. rally that Huckabee plans to be part of.
Cruz's visit to Kentucky comes as he ramps up engagement of Christian conservatives in Iowa and nationally.
He recently held a major rally, in defense of religious liberty, in Des Moines, and has unveiled an effort to tap a pastor to represent his campaign in all of Iowa's 99 counties. In New Hampshire, he recently unveiled a leadership team that includes a number of pastors, and in South Carolina he spoke at an event dubbed the "We Stand with God" rally.
"Sen. Cruz will use all means possible to fight for Kim Davis’s First Amendment freedom, and to ensure no other American is likewise targeted for simply living out their faith," a Cruz adviser said.
Huckabee's visit comes a day after Davis filed yet another appeal in the hopes of being released. Her attorneys asked for an order to have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear accommodate Davis' "religious conviction," and not force her to grant licenses to gay couples.
The same request was denied last month by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who jailed Davis.
If the latest request is granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Beshear would have to allow Davis to remove her name and title from official marriage certificates issued in Rowan County.
By doing that, Davis would not be sanctioning any same-sex unions and her conscience would be satisfied, her attorneys say.
Her lawyers have also appealed Bunning's ruling that landed her in jail.
On Monday, about 30 protesters lined the sidewalk outside Bunning's home in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, carrying signs that read "Free Kim Davis." Fort Thomas Police Lt. Casey Kilgore said the group gathered around 2 p.m., and the protest stretched on for several hours.
Davis, an apostolic Christian, says gay marriage is a sin. She also says it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple because the licenses are issued under her authority. She tried in vain to have state lawmakers change the law as a legal challenge to Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban wound its way through the federal appeals court.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June the day after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses, and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling.
But Davis still refused to do it, saying she could not betray her conscience or God. Bunning ruled Thursday that Davis was in contempt of court and sent her to jail. Her deputy clerks — except for her son, Nathan Davis — then issued marriage licenses to gay couples Friday with Davis behind bars.