Kim Davis seems determined to wring every drop of attention from her fifteen minutes of fame.
The Kentucky clerk was given the celebrity treatment on Friday at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. — an event organized by the anti-gay Family Research Council. Appearing with her lawyer Mat Staver, of the right-wing law firm Liberty Counsel, Davis was the belle of the ball at the annual gathering for social conservatives. Davis was honored with the Cost of Discipleship Award after she was jailed for defying a judge’s order to allow her office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis is also a favorite among politicians looking to shore up support for next year’s election cycle. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is up for re-election in 2016 and may face a primary challenge, defended Davis’ actions to reporters. He compared her objection over issuing same-sex marriage licenses to craft store Hobby Lobby’s objection to paying for insurance to cover the costs of contraception for their employees. That fight eventually resulted in a victory for the store’s conservative Christian owners at the Supreme Court.
“I think she was right in that she can exercise the dictates of her conscience and everyone should respect that,” McCain told reporters, according to Talking Points Memo. “I do not believe therefore she should violate the law. She should have just said, ‘I refuse to do it.’ Just like [the] Hobby Lobby case, which we won, because those people were allowed to exercise their religious beliefs by the United States Supreme Court.”
A reporter asked: “You think that Kim Davis could say, ‘I don’t want to perform this’?”
“Yes,” McCain replied.
On Monday, Davis earned another supporter: Pope Francis. During a flight returning to Rome from his recent U.S. trip, Francis defended the concept of government officials refusing to do their jobs if it violates their religious conscience.
The pope made the remarks in response to a reporter who asked: “Do you…support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example when issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”
Although the pope did not specifically mention Davis or any other case where a same-sex license was refused, he defended the right of a government official to do so, saying, “I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human rights. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”
Francis also said that laws must make room for those who object to same-sex marriage. Otherwise, government would be favoring one person’s right over another’s. When asked if that principle applied to government officials carrying out their duties, he replied: “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right.”
All of this comes on the heels of Davis’ defection from the Democratic Party, something no political commentator could have been surprised by. In fact, even prior to her party switch, her most ardent defenders were Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who promised to visit with Davis in jail and appeared at a rally held in her honor upon her release.
On Friday, Davis said that she and her family switched their party allegiance because the Democrats no longer represent their values.
“My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while and we came to the conclusion that the Democratic Party left us a long time ago, so why were we hanging on?” she told a reporter from Reuters.
In that same interview, Davis said she did not believe there was a problem with the licenses that her deputy clerks have issued since she returned to work on Sept. 14. Last week, she came under fire for a decision to alter the licenses by removing her name, title, and any reference to Rowan County, replacing a signature line for her deputy clerks with a place for them to initial, and a statement that says that the marriage license is being issued pursuant to a federal court order.
“I don’t think there should be much of an issue and the judge didn’t have any problem accepting the licenses that were issued when I was incarcerated, which had been altered, so I don’t see that there should be an issue,” Davis told Reuters.
The ACLU of Kentucky last week filed a motion with the court accusing Davis of interfering with the issuance of marriage licenses by altering the forms. The ACLU contends that such an action defies the order by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who warned Davis not to interfere with her deputy clerks who had agreed to issue marriage licenses.
If Bunning finds that Davis has defied his orders, the ACLU has asked that Bunning either fine Davis or place the Rowan County Clerk’s Office into receivership for the purpose of issuing marriage licenses. That means that a judge could appoint an outside person to oversee the process and ensure that all licenses being issued are valid.
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