Kim Davis freed from Kentucky jail

Kim Davis freed from Kentucky jail

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was released from jail on Tuesday after spending five days behind bars for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Flanked by television cameras at a rally with GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Davis vowed to keep standing up for her Christian beliefs in the face of public criticism.    

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“His people have rallied, and you are a strong people,” a weeping Davis told the crowd of supporters in Morehead, Ky. “Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down.”

“I just want to give God the glory,” she added.  “We serve a living God who knows exactly where each and every one of us is at.  He is worthy, he is worthy.”

U.S. Marshals took Davis into custody on Sept. 3 after U.S. District Judge David Bunning held her in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples at her office.

With most of the other clerks in Rowan County are now issuing the licenses — only Davis’s son, who serves as a deputy clerk, still refuses — Bunning ruled that the clerk’s office is “fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples” and ordered that Davis be freed.

Going forward, Bunning ordered that Davis not “interfere” with the issuing of marriage licenses in Rowan County.

Davis’s lawyer said she would not compromise her conscience and plans to be at work later this week. That could set up another confrontation because, as county clerk, she approves every license her office issues. 

“She’s not getting out because she violated her conscience, her conscience remains clear today as it was when she first walked into these jail cells and it will remain clear in the future,” Mathew Staver, Davis’s lawyer, told reporters.

Davis’s protest has created a raucous national debate over religious freedom and roiled the race for the Republican presidential nomination, with several of the GOP contenders backing her actions.

Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another 2016 candidate, both traveled to Morehead on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with the Kentucky clerk.

“I am tired of watching people being just harassed because they believe something of their faith, and we cannot criminalize the Christian faith or any faith in this country,” said Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas.

“I pray that there will be remedies that do not involve putting someone in jail for their convictions,” Huckabee added.  “If somebody needs to go to jail, I am willing to go in her place, and I mean that.”

Davis was released amid a “Free Kim Davis Now” rally outside the Carter County Detention Center where she was being held. Davis took the stage at the rally to the song “Eye of the Tiger.”

Cruz and Huckabee have turned Davis’s story into a rallying cry for religious voters, a crucial part of the
Republican base that both men are courting on the campaign trail.

Huckabee, a former pastor, has long stumped for faith-based causes and harnessed that support as part of his second-place finish in the 2008 GOP primary race.

Cruz, meanwhile, is a two-time winner of the Value Voters Summit presidential straw poll, a major litmus test for voters on the religious right.

Evangelical voters, however, have a greater number of voices courting their ranks during the next election cycle. Huckabee, Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) have all made religious voters a focus of their campaigns.

Tim Head, the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, praised Huckabee and Cruz, as well as other presidential candidates, for their work on issues related to religious freedom. He noted that the image of Huckabee standing alongside Davis could go a long way with many evangelical voters. 

“Evangelical voters across the country don’t just want someone who believes what they believe, they want someone who really is at their core one of us,” he said.

“When they see a political candidate standing with open arms, welcoming out of jail a jailed believer, that resonates.”

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, told The Hill that he spoke to Davis and said she is “not budging” from her position. He said the conflict in Kentucky is a preview of what’s to come as the election cycle heats up. 

“Religious liberty is going to become the central issue in this election,” he said. “This is going to be a defining issue for conservative voters.”