Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz both planned to pay visits to Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in jail on Tuesday. They scheduled rallies and press conferences outside the jail to speak about religious liberty and the “criminalization of Christianity” that they believe her arrest represents.
But shortly before their events were scheduled to begin, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning issued an order releasing her from jail.
Huckabee capitalized on the moment, following Davis through the jail doors and joining her in speaking to the TV cameras awaiting them outside the jailhouse.
“She’s shown more courage than most any politician I know and most every pastor I know,” Huckabee said about Davis. “Because she’s not only said something, she’s been willing to put her life at risk in order to follow the Christ that came into her life four years ago.”
Huckabee also spoke about the people who came “from all over the country” to attend the rally, originally planned while Davis was in jail.
“They came because they wanted her to be free,” he said. “What we could not have known, when this was planned a week ago, was that on the day that everyone comes, they get to watch her walk out of this jail. We stand with Kim today with gratitude and appreciation.”
Huckabee added that if somebody needs to go to jail, he is willing to go in her place.
Judge Bunning had previously ordered Davis detained last week for contempt of court after she denied to process marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her county. Her case has turned into a rallying for socially conservative presidential candidates trying to appeal to evangelical voters.
Huckabee’s presence outside the jail appeared to overshadow Cruz, who was also at the rally and planned to meet with Davis inside the jail. Cruz released a statement on his Facebook page, saying “Praise God that Kim Davis is being released. It was an outrage that she was imprisoned for six days for living according to her Christian faith.”
Huckabee had similarly spoken out about Davis’ situation before her release. He published an op-ed with Fox News Tuesday morning in which he questioned why Davis was given no possibility of bail while other criminals throughout U.S. history were let out on bail — missing the fact that Davis was held in contempt of court, while the others weren’t.
“Today, I ask on behalf of Kim: ‘Under what law is she authorized to issue homosexual couples a marriage license?’” Huckabee asked in the op-ed. “Can you site the specific right in the Constitution? Is there a statute, passed by Congress that actually says that the five unelected lawyers in the majority of the court’s opinion were right to throw out the very definition of marriage and make up one on their own?”
Both Cruz and Huckabee declared after her arrest that it represented how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country represented judicial activism. Cruz said in a statement that “judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Huckabee launched a “Free Kim Davis” petition on his website and Cruz told supporters to “Stand With Kim Davis” by entering their information on his website.
Five Kentucky schools in the area were forced to close on Tuesday due to the expected traffic the rallies would create.