Gay marriage fight shifts as politicians spy an opportunity
Politicians who may have thought they wouldn’t have to say much at all about gay marriage once the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized it now must answer a different question: Do you support Kim Davis?
The Rowan County clerk, who has become a darling of many conservatives despite being a Democrat, cited “God’s authority” and religious liberty in choosing jail time over issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some social conservatives have cast Davis as a hero, shifting the gay marriage debate from one about civil liberties - a matter that appeared to have been settled - to one about religious liberty.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher running for president but trailing badly in the polls, rushed to Davis’ side and said it was unfair the government would not accommodate her beliefs. A judge ultimately freed Davis on the condition she not interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also traveled to Morehead to bask in her defiance. And Kentucky Republican governor hopeful Matt Bevin has tried to capitalize on her recent celebrity.
Others find themselves in a more awkward position. Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee in the state’s closely watched governor’s race, eventually declined to defend the state’s gay marriage ban as attorney general and now must dodge attacks from Bevin, even though both candidates favor carving out an exemption in state law for Davis. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose presidential campaign has focused more on economics than social issues, first said Davis should follow the rule of law. But in last week’s GOP presidential debate, he agreed that “there needs to be an accommodation for someone acting on their faith.”
In the same debate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum compared Davis to a student killed in the Columbine High School massacre who reportedly told one of the gunmen she believed in God before she was shot. And Huckabee said it wasn’t fair that the government allowed the suspected Fort Hood shooter to grow a beard in prison for religious reasons but would not accommodate Davis’ beliefs.