- The Magazine
It looks like Kim Davis is ready for her close-up. And if she’s not, two opportunist Republican presidential candidates will gladly shove her out of the spotlight to fuel their own ambitions.
According to the Associated Press, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have both arranged to meet with Davis, the Rowan County clerk who has been placed in jail for contempt after defying a judge’s order to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis, citing her Apostolic Christian beliefs and “God’s authority,” refused to allow any licenses to be issued to any couples — straight or gay — within Rowan County because her name would still appear on the license even if she did not personally issue the licenses. Huckabee had already planned to attend a rally calling for Davis’ release from prison on Tuesday afternoon. A similar rally, of about 30 people, was held on Monday outside the home of U.S. Judge David Bunning, a Republican appointee, who issued the order finding Davis in contempt.
Also on Monday, Davis’ lawyers, from the conservative law firm Liberty Counsel, appealed Bunning’s ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawyers also asked for an order that would compel Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear — who, like Davis, is a Democrat — to accommodate Davis’ religious beliefs by allowing her to remove her name and title from official marriage certificates in Rowan County. If Davis’ name is removed from marriage licenses, she believes she will no longer be sanctioning any same-sex unions and her conscience will be satisfied, her lawyers argued.
Davis, along with several other county clerks who are begrudgingly complying with the law, and Kentucky lawmakers from both parties, has argued that Beshear should call a special session of the legislature to create some type of work-around that would allow clerks who object to homosexuality or same-sex marriage from being forced to issue marriage licenses. Beshear, thus far, has refused to do so.
By meeting with Davis and speaking out against her imprisonment, Huckabee and Cruz get to shine the spotlight on presidential campaigns that have been overshadowed by the campaign of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump while also appealing to evangelical voters and religious conservatives who make up a significant chunk of the GOP voter base, particularly in the early caucus state of Iowa.
Because a significant number of Republicans oppose same-sex marriage and view Davis’ imprisonment as a violation of her religious liberty, GOP presidential contenders have either weighed in on the situation, unprompted, or have been asked, mainly by conservative media outlets, where they stand on the issue. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have aired on the side of supporting Davis, saying she should be able to follow her religious conscience. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, of Davis’ home state, praised the clerk for taking a stand but suggested that government remove itself from the process of issuing marriage licenses in order to avoid similar conflicts over religious liberty.
Meanwhile, other GOP contenders have argued that Davis, in her capacity as a public official, needs to follow the law. Both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have suggested that there can be accommodations made to help Davis avoid violating her religious conscience, with Christie saying he’d move her to another position within the government. Trump, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have also said that Davis needs to abide by the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, even if she disagrees with it.
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