Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage license to gay couples gets backing of 2 GOP presidential candidates

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis (second from left) is shown in this courtroom sketch during her contempt of court hearing for her refusal to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, at the United States District Court in Ashland, Kentucky, on Sept. 3, 2015.Reuters

At least two Republican presidential bets—former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—expressed support to a Kentucky county clerk who was sent to jail on Thursday after being held in contempt of court by a US federal judge for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Huckabee said he talked to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis on Wednesday to offer "prayers and support," according to Newsmax. Huckabee is a Southern Baptist minister.

"Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalisation of Christianity in this country," Huckabee said.

Christian lobbying group Family Research Council said religious freedom in the United States was under attack. It urged Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to call for a special session of the state legislature to alter the law to accommodate clerks like Davis.

Paul also said he supports Davis. Republican presidential bets Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham, on the other hand, said Davis should have complied with the law.

A crying Davis was led away on Thursday by US marshals who confirmed she was under arrest.

"The court doesn't do this lightly," District Court Judge David Bunning said in ordering that she be taken into custody.

Davis had been refusing to issue licenses to any couples, either gay or straight, since June when the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage throughout the nation.

During Thursday's hearing at the district court in Ashland, Kentucky, Davis maintained that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman as God himself mandated. "Marriage is a union between one man and one woman," the soft-spoken county clerk said under questioning by her attorney.

Davis insists that her refusal to grant marriage licensed is based on "God's authority."

Kentucky governor won't intervene

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has refused to intervene in the case of Davis, who continued refusing to issue marriage license despite a ruling by the US Supreme Court on Monday denying her request for a stay in a lower court decision ordering her to do her job.

"There are obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but the United States Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex marriage is now legal in Kentucky and the rest of the United States. Regardless of whatever their personal feelings might be, 117 of our 120 county clerks are following the law and carrying out their duty to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender," he said in a statement.

Beshear said he has no legal authority to relieve or remove Davis from her job.

Davis was sued by four couples who failed to get marriage license from the county clerk's office.

She then sued Beshear, accusing him of violating her First Amendment rights.

"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe. But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act," Beshear said in a directive to all county clerks.

Pastor says homosexuality subject to 'personal interpretation'

Beshear's pastor, meanwhile, said he does not teach about homosexuality in his congregation and says the issue is up to "personal interpretation."

Senior Pastory Kory Wilcoxson of the Crestwood Christian Church, of which Beshear is a member, said the church does not speak on social and political issues and when it comes to homosexuality, it's up to members to interpret it.

"We believe that each person should be allowed to work out for themselves what Scripture says to them and how they interpret it," he said. "We don't take church-wide or denominational-wide stances."

He said, "What we try to do is to focus on what is essential to our faith and our belief in Jesus Christ, and that allows for the liberty of interpretations on other issues. So, if we believe a passage can be interpreted in different ways, then we allow for that and try to help our congregation members come to an understanding of that themselves, rather than telling them what they should believe."