Republican presidential candidates rallied around the Kentucky clerk taken into custody Thursday for not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, declined to heed a U.S. Supreme Court order legalizing same-sex marriage, so on Thursday a federal judge held her in contempt and remanded her to custody.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said the move would set a bad precedent.
“I think it’s absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty,” he said on CNN shortly after the decision. “I think it’s a real mistake and even those on the other side of the issue, I think it sets their movement back.”
Paul said forcing conservative Christians to issue marriage licensees to same-sex couples is going to backfire.
“What’s going to happen is it’s going to harden people’s resolve on this issue,” he said. “I think what’s going to happen is that state and localities are just going to opt out of the marriage business.”
Paul suggested compromises that would allow Davis to refrain from putting her signature on the license. The process could involve a notary public who does not object to the law.
“This is a really the problem when we decide to get involved in a situation that has always through the history of our country been a local issue,” he said.
Other presidential candidates weighed in on the news. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said it is now a crime to be a Christian in America.
“Having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country. We must defend religious liberty and never surrender to judicial tyranny,” he said. “I am proud of Kim for standing strong for her beliefs. Who will be next? Pastors? Photographers? Caterers? Florists? This is a reckless, appalling, out-of-control decision that undermines the Constitution of the United States and our fundamental right to religious liberty.”
Huckabee is planning to rally supporters in Kentucky on Tuesday and is also collecting signatures for a petition to “immediately release” Davis on his website. As of late Friday morning, the petition has already drawn more than 55,000 signatures.
And Huckabee spokesman Hogan Gidley said Friday that “we’ve got way more planned.”
“Until this judge starts acting responsibly we feel it’s important to highlight the injustice that’s occurred here,” Gidley said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Kim Davis is the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.
“Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position. Or, if Christians do serve in pubic office, they must disregard their religious faith — or be sent to jail,” he said in statement. “Kim Davis should not be in jail. We are a country founded on Judeo-Christian values, founded by those fleeing religious oppression and seeking a land where we could worship God and live according to our faith, without being imprisoned for doing so.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also defended what he called Davis’ religious freedom.
“I don’t think anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions. I think it’s wrong to force Christian individuals or business owners,” he told the Huffington Post. “We are seeing government today discriminate against whether it’s clerks, florists, musicians or others. I think that’s wrong. I think you should be able to keep your job and follow your conscience.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker discussed Davis’s decision Thursday on the Laura Ingraham Show.
“In the end, this is the balance that you gotta have to have in America, between the laws that are out there, but ultimately ensuring that the Constitution is upheld,” he said. “I read that the Constitution is very clear that people have freedom of religion — you have the freedom to practice religious beliefs out there, it’s a fundamental right.”