Republican presidential candidates have responded, with widely varied statements, to the Kim Davis case, in which the Kentucky county clerk was jailed after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Candidates aiming to appeal to social conservatives showed strong support for Davis, while other Republicans said public officials were obligated to comply with the law.
Davis was jailed Thursday for contempt of court, Slate reported. Although the attorneys for the gay couples who filed the lawsuit offered a compromise that Davis would not be jailed as long as she allowed her deputies to issue licenses to all couples, regardless of gender, she refused.
GOP candidates defending Clark included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who took to Twitter, writing, “Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country. We must defend #ReligiousLiberty!”
U.S. Ted Cruz of Texas also aggressively defended Davis, through a lengthy statement on his website.
“Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny," Cruz's statement said. “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America. I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion.”
Other candidates who fiercely defended Clark included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also defended Davis, but not as aggressively.
“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,” Rubio said in a statement. “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.”
Other GOP candidates, meanwhile, said it was a public officials' duty to comply with the law, regardless of one's personal beliefs. These candidates included former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
"As a public official, comply with the law or resign,” Graham told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “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."
One GOP candidate, however, appeared not to know exactly what was going on regarding the Davis case.
“I don't know enough about it to comment on it,” businessman Donald Trump said at a news conference Thursday, Slate reported. “Was she jailed? I really don't know much about it."