While Mike Huckabee was standing beside Kim Davis upon her release from jail today, celebrating her as a hero, and offering to go to jail in her place, other Republican presidential candidates were weighing in on the anti–marriage equality county clerk.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has staked out a moderate — for his party — position on marriage equality, worried that the focus on Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples would turn young people away from religion. Davis, who says issuing the license would violate her Christian beliefs, was jailed Thursday on a contempt of court charge and released today.
“When young people, or people who are looking at what is religion all about, what is faith all about — when they see dust-ups like this, my concern is they would go the other way and say, ‘Look, I don't want anything to do with that,’” Kasich told Fox News host Neil Cavuto today (watch below).
Kasich said he understands Davis’s concerns but not how she has handled them. While he supports “traditional marriage,” as he refers to it, he recognizes that marriage equality is the law of the land, and public officials must accept that.
“We have bigger fish to fry in terms of the whole issue of faith,” added Kasich, a former Roman Catholic who now attends a church affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative body that broke off from the Episcopal Church after the latter appointed its first openly gay bishop. Faith, he said, “means I am supposed to live a life bigger than myself. It means I have to be aware of those who are the downtrodden and the widows, the orphans.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas remained a champion of Davis, posting on Facebook today, “Praise God Kim has been released. It was an outrage that she was imprisoned for six days for living according to her Christian faith,” along with a photo of him with Davis and her husband, Joe. Cruz had traveled to Kentucky to meet with Davis today but did not join Huckabee in addressing a rally held outside the detention center where she had been held. The rally had been planned as a call for her freedom, but with her unexpected release, it turned into a celebration — and something of an antigay hate event.
The Human Rights Campaign called Cruz and Huckabee’s trips to Kentucky to support Davis “reckless and irresponsible,” in a statement from JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs. They are advocating “on behalf of public servants who not only willfully flouted and ignored a federal court order, but also blocked other officials in the office from carrying out the law,” she said.
Kasich declined to comment specifically on Cruz and Huckabee’s support of Davis. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appearing today on another Fox News show, Fox & Friends (watch below), said, “Frankly, I don’t think you should grandstand on this stuff.”
He said Davis’s religious objections to same-sex marriage could be accommodated if the state were to give her a different job — but that likely would not work in Kentucky, as county clerks are elected (as they are in many states), not appointed.
In recent days some Republican presidential candidates, such as Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush, have said Davis should follow the law; others, including Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal, have voiced support for her; and still others, such as Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, have made vague statements about the need to uphold the law while accommodating religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, the daughter of a former Republican presidential candidate warned this year’s field that opposition to marriage equality is a losing issue. Meghan McCain, the pro-LGBT commentator and daughter of 2008 nominee John McCain, tweeted, "Republicans should be wary of turning #2016 into another culture war. Kim Davis is no hero and rallying behind her as such is dangerous."