Kim Davis became the center of the national discourse earlier this week for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky. Now, top politicians have chimed in on the debate over marriage equality and religious freedom. Some 2016 GOP candidates have spoke about Kim Davis, with a few reproaching the defiant anti-gay clerk, but most supporting her violation of gay people's constitutional rights. Davis appeared in federal court on Thursday, and was jailed after being found in contempt of court for refusing to abide by a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses to all couples. Having already stated that she is acting under God's authority, Davis might feel even more emboldened now by certain candidates' words of encouragement.
Normally, such prominent politicians would not comment on the actions of a county clerk. But Davis' refusal to give marriage licenses to gay couples speaks to a larger issue regarding religious freedom and the authority of the Constitution. Since June, when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry no matter where they lived, Davis has been refusing to abide by the ruling, arguing that issuing licenses to gay couples would violate her religious beliefs. When asked whose authority she was acting under, Davis replied, "Under God's authority."
Now that she's a one-woman symbol in the debate between religion and law, several 2016 presidential candidates have chimed in to offer their stances. So far, no Democratic candidates have commented, but here's what some GOP candidates have said about Davis.
Perhaps Davis's biggest and most outspoken proponent is Mike Huckabee, who issued this statement on his Facebook page on Wednesday:
I spoke with Kim Davis this morning to offer my prayers and support. I let her know how proud I am of her for not abandoning her religious convictions and standing strong for religious liberty. She is showing more courage and humility than just about any federal office holder in Washington ...
The Supreme Court cannot and did not make a law. They only made a ruling on a law. Congress makes the laws. Because Congress has made no law allowing for same sex marriage, Kim does not have the Constitutional authority to issue a marriage license to homosexual couples ...
I stand with Kim Davis and every American of faith under attack by Washington elites who have nothing but disdain for us, our faith and the Constitution.
In a radio interview with Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, Chris Christie offered his take. He's clearly torn on the issue.
Someone who works in the government has a bit of a different obligation than someone who’s in the private sector or obviously working for educational institutions that’s religiously based or others ... We have to protect religious liberty and people’s ability to be able to practice their religion freely and openly, and of course we have to enforce the law too.
Ted Cruz also posted his endorsement of Davis on Facebook, writing:
Our nation was founded by men and women fleeing religious oppression. They sought out a new world where they could worship God Almighty with all their heart, mind, and soul.
Sadly, we’ve seen a war on faith break out across our nation, and we must be vigilant to protect the free exercise of religion -- a value enshrined in our Constitution.
We should make it possible for believers, such as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky, to hold government jobs without having to violate their religious beliefs.
Though she doesn't believe in gay marriage, Carly Fiorina offered one of the more reasonable takes on the situation — basically "obey the law or find work elsewhere." She said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Tuesday:
While I disagree with this court’s decision, their actions are clear. And so I think in this particular case, this woman now needs to make a decision that’s [about] conscience: Is she prepared to continue to work for the government, be paid for by the government, in which case she needs to execute the government’s will, or does she feel so strongly about this that she wants to sever her employment with the government and go seek employment elsewhere where her religious liberties would be paramount over her duties as a government employee?
Of course staunch social conservative Bobby Jindal sided with Davis. He told The Huffington Post on Wednesday:
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. 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. I absolutely do believe people have a First Amendment right, a constitutional right. I don't think the court can take that away.
Rand Paul stood up for Davis during an interview with Boston Herald Radio on Monday:
I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something is an important part of the American way.
He also offered his own solution for the conundrum:
I think one way to get around the whole idea of what the Supreme Court is forcing on the states is for states just to get out of the business of giving out licenses. Alabama has already voted to do this, they're just no longer going to give out licenses. And anybody can make a contract. And then if you want a marriage contract you go to a church.
In a statement to The New York Times on Wednesday, Marco Rubio said there needs to be a compromise that allows Davis to keep doing her job without compromising her religious beliefs, but didn't offer any ideas.
We should seek a balance between government’s responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions. While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.
The never-married Lindsey Graham has a no-nonsense opinion of the issue, and he offered the toughest words for Davis. He said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show on Tuesday:
As a public official, comply with the law or resign. The rule of law is the rule of law. That's what we are. We are a rule of law nation, and I appreciate her conviction. I support traditional marriage, but she's accepted a job where she has to apply the law to everyone. And that's her choice.