The Kentucky county-clerk saga and the clash between gay marriage and religious freedom has entered the national political stage.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, came to the defense Wednesday of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has defied the Supreme Court by refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her religious objection to gay unions.
Mrs. Davis has refused “under God’s authority” to issue licenses to any couples — gay or otherwise — in the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, though her efforts to seek relief in federal court have failed.
She says issuing marriage licenses to gay couples would make her complicit in sinful action and this is a “heaven or hell” matter for her.
In an email blast, Mr. Huckabee said he “visited” with Mrs. Davis, a Democrat, over the telephone Wednesday to offer “my prayers and support.”
Mr. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, said Mrs. Davis is “standing strong for religious liberty” and said the Supreme Court “cannot and did not make the law” on marriage.
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“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,” Mr. Huckabee said.
Mr. Huckabee is running ninth in national polls, and eighth in Iowa, which opens the nomination contest and is seen as crucial to Mr. Huckabee’s chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination next year.
The 60-year-old rode the support of religious and social conservatives to victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, but faces stiff competition this go-round for that powerful slice of the GOP electorate, including from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, winner of the 2012 caucuses.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Jindal said her boss approves of Mrs. Davis’s action, but would not go so far as to call for clerks to refuse court rulings.
Mr. Jindal thinks “every person should be able to follow their conscience, and clerks who cannot in good conscience participate in same-sex marriage should not be forced to violate their beliefs,” campaign spokeswoman Shannon Bates told The Associated Press.
On the other side of the issue, both businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Sen. Lindsey Graham said that while they back religious-liberty concerns in private disputes, Mrs. Davis is a government official who must abide by a law she is refusing to carry out.
“The rule of law is the rule of law,” Mr. Graham said Wednesday on the show of conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“I appreciate her conviction, I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job in which she has to apply the law to everyone,” Mr. Graham said. “[She] should comply with the law or resign.”
In a Tuesday appearance on the same show, Mrs. Fiorina said that while “it’s clear religious liberty is under assault in many, many ways,” this case is “a very different situation for her than someone in a hospital who’s asked to perform an abortion or someone at a florist who’s asked to serve a gay wedding.”
“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] sever her employment with the government and go seek employment elsewhere where her religious liberties would be paramount,” Mrs. Fiorina said.
The dispute itself dragged on Wednesday in Kentucky, with Mrs. Davis again refusing requests for marriage licenses by several couples and her lawyers asking for another stay in the order by U.S. District Judge David Bunning that she issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
The Davis team’s argument this time, according to legal papers filed Wednesday, is based on a dispute over Gov. Steve Beshear’s order that she issue the marriage licenses.
Barring a stay, Mrs. Davis will appear in court Thursday in which Judge Bunning will decide whether to hold her in contempt of court for refusing to carry out his order.
Mr. Huckabee applauded Mrs. Davis for her stand Wednesday, using both the Christian language of martyrdom and the Declaration of Independence’s wording about the source of rights.
“Kim is a person of great conviction,” Mr. Huckabee said. “When people of conviction fight for what’s right they often pay a price, but if they don’t and we surrender, we will pay a far greater price for bowing to the false God of judicial supremacy.”
“Government is not God. No man — and certainly no unelected lawyer — has the right to redefine the laws of nature or of nature’s God,” Mr. Huckabee said.