No less than God himself has made his presence known through the actions of Kim Davis, said Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee at a rally in support of the Rowan County, Ky., clerk this afternoon.
"God showed up," Huckabee said, referencing a line from the film Forrest Gump, "and he showed up in the form of an elected Democrat."
The rally for Davis, jailed for contempt of court because of her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, had been planned for several days but took an unexpected turn with Davis's release shortly before the 3 p.m. event at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who sent her to jail Thursday, ruled today that the conditions of his order had been met because Davis's deputy clerks were issuing licenses to all eligible couples, regardless of gender. Davis and her deputies had ceased issuing licenses to any couples after the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, in order to avoid violating Davis's faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage. A lawsuit against her led to Bunning's order that she grant the licenses or be held in contempt; two other clerks in Kentucky refuse to license same-sex marriages, but they have not been sued.
Speaking along with Huckabee at what was essentially an antigay rally broadcast on live TV were Family Research Council president Tony Perkins (pictured above), Davis's attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, right-wing activist brothers Jason and David Benham, Kentucky Republican gubenatorial candidate Matt Bevin, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown, and another of the resistant clerks, Casey Davis. The rally was capped by an appearance by Kim Davis, who emerged as loudspeakers blared "Eye of the Tiger."
She did not discuss the particulars of the legal case against her -- Bunning's ruling today orders her not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses. She simply thanked her supporters and God.
"Thank you all so much," she said, clearly emotional, as she stood between Huckabee and Davis. "I love you all so very much. ... I just want to give God the glory." Chants of "God bless Kim" went up from the crowd, with many people waving crosses. The Confederate battle flag could be seen waving too.
Above: Mike Huckabee and Mat Staver warm up the crowd.
Huckabee made his usual comments about "judicial tyranny" in the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, saying the Supreme Court is the highest-ranking part of the judicial branch of government, but it does not have authority over the legislative or executive branches. (Constitutional scholars would disagree.) "The founders did not give that one branch of government the power to make the law. ... We will not submit to the tyranny of that one branch of government." He also said he would be willing to go to jail in Davis's place.
Staver decried those who have pointed out Davis's "past failings," including her multiple marriages and divorces. "There was a Kim Davis that was then, and there's a different Kim Davis now," he said, referring to her embrace of evangelical Christianity four years ago.
What will happen now in Rowan County is uncertain. Five of Davis's six deputies -- the lone exception being her son -- said they were willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and several such couples received licenses Friday. But Staver claims those licenses are invalid because they were not issued under Davis's authority.
Davis wants an "accommodation" for her religious beliefs by having her name taken off the marriage license form, Staver told reporters prior to the rally. MSNBC viewed one of the licenses issued Friday and said the name of a deputy, not Davis, was on the document, so the point could be moot.
When reporters asked Staver if Davis would comply with Bunning's order, he said, "Kim Davis will not violate her conscience." When one member of the media said that didn't answer the question, Staver replied, "You'll find out in the very near future."
Another Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, traveled to Kentucky today to meet with Davis, but he did not appear at the rally. Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, also seeking the GOP nomination, told Fox News that candidates shouldn't "grandstand" on the issue.
The Benham brothers
Signs in the crowd
Kim Davis, Mat Staver, and Kim Davis's husband, Joe Davis