WASHINGTON – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is scheduled to visit a Kentucky jail next week to meet with a county clerk imprisoned because she ignored repeated court orders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Huckabee, a Baptist pastor and Republican presidential candidate, plans to host a rally in county clerk Kim Davis' honor after the private meeting outside the Carter County Detention Center.
"Having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country," Huckabee said in a statement issued Friday. "What a world, where Hillary Clinton isn't in jail but Kim Davis is."
Davis' jailing offers the many Republican presidential candidates an opportunity to appeal to the GOP's evangelical Christian wing, which opposes same-sex marriage and casts Davis' imprisonment as an issue of religious freedom. Not all the Republican White House hopefuls see it Huckabee's way.
Asked about Davis' imprisonment Friday morning, Republican Donald Trump noted that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage.
"You have to go with it," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." ''The decision has been made, and that's the law of the land."
The former reality television star suggested that Davis allow a deputy clerk to issue the marriage licenses. During a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Bunning offered to release Davis if she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses, but she refused, citing her Christian beliefs.
"I hate to see her being put in jail," Trump said, later adding, "We're a nation of laws."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has struggled for attention in the crowded 2016 contest, lashed out at Trump on Twitter. "You can't make America great again by throwing Christians in jail," Jindal tweeted in a message referencing Trump by name. "Even really rich New Yorkers should oppose jailing Christians for their religious beliefs."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday authorities should have found a compromise to keep Davis out of jail.
"I didn't think I'd ever see the day when a Christian in America could go to jail because they decided to live by the precepts of their faith," Rubio said.
The judge indicated Davis would remain in jail for at least a week, saying he would revisit his decision after the deputy clerks have had time to comply with his order. Davis' deputies did just that Friday morning, issuing Rowan County's first same-sex marriage licenses with a sheriff's deputy standing guard in front of Davis' darkened office.
Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Davis' husband, Joe, held a sign that read, "Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah" and said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.
Associated Press writer Adam Beam in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.