LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Two Republican presidential candidates planned jailhouse meetings Tuesday with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, raising her conservative-hero status as she remains behind bars over her refusal to give marriage licenses to gay couples.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each said they would meet with Davis, who was jailed by a federal judge Thursday after defying several court orders. Her lawyers spent Labor Day weekend filing appeals in an effort to force her release, but she remains there on a contempt charge.
Huckabee, a former Baptist minister who often reaches out to religious conservatives, says Davis is simply exercising her religious freedom by denying the marriage licenses. He plans to join a rally of Davis supporters Tuesday afternoon.
Davis' jailing offers the many Republican presidential candidates an opportunity to appeal to the GOP's evangelical Christian wing, which opposes same-sex marriage and casts Davis' imprisonment as an issue of religious freedom. Not all the Republican White House hopefuls see it Huckabee's way, however.
The visits come a day after Davis filed yet another appeal in the hopes of being released. Her attorneys asked for an order to have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, accommodate Davis' "religious conviction," and not force her to grant licenses to gay couples.
The same request was denied last month by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who jailed Davis.
If the latest request is granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Beshear would have to allow Davis to remove her name and title from official marriage certificates issued in Rowan County.
By doing that, Davis would not be sanctioning any same-sex unions and her conscience would be satisfied, her attorneys say.
Her lawyers have also appealed Bunning's ruling that landed her in jail.
On Monday, about 30 protesters lined the sidewalk outside Bunning's home in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, carrying signs that read "Free Kim Davis." Fort Thomas Police Lt. Casey Kilgore said the group gathered around 2 p.m., and the protest stretched on for several hours.
Davis, an apostolic Christian, says gay marriage is a sin. She also says it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple because the licenses are issued under her authority. She tried in vain to have state lawmakers change the law as a legal challenge to Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban wound its way through the federal appeals court.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June the day after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses, and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling.
But Davis still refused to do it, saying she could not betray her conscience or God. Bunning ruled Thursday that Davis was in contempt of court and sent her to jail. Her deputy clerks — except for her son, Nathan Davis — then issued marriage licenses to gay couples Friday with Davis behind bars.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.