POLITICS

Ted Cruz to visit jailed Kentucky clerk Kim Davis amid gay marriage debate

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 (Getty Images)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is taking his presidential campaign to a jailhouse on Tuesday as he plans to visit the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Cruz, who last week vehemently spoke out against the jailing of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, has framed the jailing as an attack on religious freedom. Davis has argued that she will not issue the marriage licenses because it goes against her faith as an apostolic Christian.

The firebrand lawmaker's visit to Kentucky comes as Cruz attempts to lure in more conservative religious lawmakers who have been outraged by the decision by U.S. District Judge David Bunning to jail Davis.

"It is important to Sen. Cruz for Kim Davis to know that he supports her and will do everything in his power to ensure her situation is resolved and that no other Americans who strive to live out their faith fall victim to religious persecution by the government," Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement to the Washington Post.

"The First Amendment – the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech and expression – is foundational to all other freedoms and Sen. Cruz is committed to defending it,” she added.

The Davis case has exposed a rift within the crowded Republican presidential field over the issue of faith and federal laws – especially when it comes to the Supreme Court ruling in June that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. Religious conservatives like Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is also planning a visit to Davis' jail cell, argue that the ruling impedes on people's religious freedoms.

"This is wrong. This is not America," Cruz said last week. "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 decision."

While some Republican candidates agree with Cruz, there are some who stand with the Supreme Court.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Silicon Valley executive Carly Fiorina have all said that as a government employee, Davis is obligated to carry out the law.

"When you are a government employee as opposed to say, an employee of another kind of organization, then in essence, you are agreeing to act as an arm of the government," Fiorna said, adding the she still did not agree with the court ruling to jail Davis.

Attorneys for Davis said Monday they have filed an emergency motion with a federal court that they hope will result in her freedom.

The filing seeks to have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear accommodate Davis' "religious conviction," and not compel her to grant licenses to gay couples, Liberty Counsel said in a statement.

"The motion requests an injunction pending appeal for an exemption from the Governor's mandate that all county clerks issue marriage licenses," said the statement by Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis.

The same injunction request was denied last month by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who jailed Davis on Thursday.

Charla Bansley, communications director for Liberty Counsel, said Davis could be released from jail immediately if the motion were granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordering Beshear to issue Davis an "accommodation" — allowing her to remove her name and title from official marriage certificates issued in Rowan County.

By doing that, Davis would not be sanctioning any same-sex unions and her conscience would be satisfied, they say.

"If there was an accommodation, she would be released (from jail) because she would no longer be in contempt," Bansley said.

On Monday, about 30 protesters lined the sidewalk outside Bunning's home in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, carrying signs that read "Free Kim Davis." Fort Thomas Police Lt. Casey Kilgore said the group gathered around 2 p.m., and the protest stretched on several hours. He said the group sang and waved their signs; they broke no laws and no one was arrested. He did not know if Bunning was home.

The Associated press contributed to this report.

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