Jailed clerk who fought gay marriage is released from jail

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Kim Davis Appears Before Cameras After Release

GRAYSON, Ky. (AP) -- The Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples was released Tuesday after five days behind bars, emerging to a tumultuous hero's welcome from thousands of supporters waving large white crosses.

"I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people," Kim Davis told the crowd after stepping outside, her arms raised like a victorious boxer, to the blaring "Rocky"-sequel theme song "Eye of the Tiger."

Her lawyer refused to say whether she would defy the courts again.

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Kim Davis (Kentucky clerk) since her release from jail
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Jailed clerk who fought gay marriage is released from jail
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) PAULA FARIS, KIM DAVIS
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) PAULA FARIS, KIM DAVIS, MATHEW STAVER (ATTORNEY)
ABC NEWS - 9/21/15 - Paula Faris speaks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail because she refused to issue gay marriage licenses. The exclusive interview will air on all ABC News programs and platforms. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) KIM DAVIS
Surrounded by Rowan County Sheriff's deputies, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center, with her son Nathan Davis standing by her side, makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Davis announced that her office will issue marriage licenses under order of a federal judge, but they will not have her name or office listed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, with her son Nathan Davis at her side, makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Davis announced that her office will issue marriage licenses under order of a federal judge, but they will not have her name or office listed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Davis announced that her office will issue marriage licenses under order of a federal judge, but they will not have her name or office listed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
MOREHEAD, KY - SEPTEMBER 14: Rowan County clerk Kim Davis walks through the halls of the courthouse on her first day back to work, after being released from jail last week, at the Rowan County Courthouse September 14, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. Davis was jailed for disobeying a judges order for denying marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (L) holds her hands in the air with her attorney Mat Staver (C) and her husband Joe Davis (R) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, at her side, greets the crowd after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Grayson, Ky. Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis pauses as she speaks after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Grayson, Ky. Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (2L) joins hands with her attorney Mat Staver (2R), husband Joe Davis (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (L) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, at her side, greets the crowd after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Grayson, Ky. Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, and attorney Mat Staver, right, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis, at her side, greets the crowd after being released from the Carter County Detention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Grayson, Ky. Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was released Tuesday after five days behind bars. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis (L) walks off stage with her husband Joe Davis (R) in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: Kim Davis, Clerk of Courts in Rowan County, Kentucky, looks over at Mike Huckabee after she was released from six days of incarceration at the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Musicians lead protesters in hymns outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. Presidential candidates former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each planned jailhouse meetings Tuesday with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who remains behind bars over her refusal to give marriage licenses to gay couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
GRAYSON, KY - SEPTEMBER 8: People hold signs in support of Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis during a rally in front of the Carter County Detention Center on September 8, 2015 in Grayson, Kentucky. Davis was ordered to jail last week for contempt of court after refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
This Thursday, Aug. 3, 2015 photo made available by the Carter County Detention Center shows Kim Davis. The Rowan County, Ky. clerk went to jail Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, but five of her deputies agreed to comply with the law, ending a two-month standoff. (Carter County Detention Center via AP)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, talks with David Moore following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis listens to a customer following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center, talks with protesters following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, foreground left, is greeted as she arrives for work at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Davis' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was turned down on Monday, and now she is under federal orders to begin issuing marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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"Kim cannot and will not violate her conscience," said Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis. As for whether she will issue licenses, Staver said only: "You'll find out in the near future."

The Rowan County clerk whose defiance has made her a hero to the religious right walked free after the federal judge who ordered her locked up lifted the contempt ruling against her, saying he was satisfied that her deputies were fulfilling their obligation to grant licenses to same-sex couples in her absence.

But U.S. District Judge David Bunning also warned Davis not to interfere again, or else she could wind up back in jail.

Davis, 49, has refused to resign her $80,000-a-year job. As an elected official, she can lose her post only if she is defeated for re-election or is impeached by the state General Assembly. The latter is unlikely, given the legislature's conservative slant.

As the surprise news of her impending release spread, a crowd of dozens of supporters who had gathered on the jailhouse lawn for a previously scheduled rally swelled to thousands. They broke into "Amazing Grace" and "God Bless America" and waved signs, flags and crosses.

Cries of thanks to Jesus echoed through the crowd as Davis emerged next to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and her husband, Joe, who was in overalls and a straw hat. Huckabee and fellow GOP White House candidate Sen. Ted Cruz visited her at the jail just after the decision came down.

"If somebody has to go to jail, I'm willing to go in her place," said Huckabee, a former Baptist minister and Arkansas governor. He added: "She has shown more courage than any politician I know."

Davis was locked up on Thursday for the boldest act of resistance by a public official yet to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that effectively legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. Citing "God's authority" and her belief that gay marriage is a sin, Davis, an Apostolic Christian, stopped issuing all marriage licenses.

Two gay couples and two heterosexual ones sued her. Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses, and the Supreme Court backed him. But she still refused and was held in contempt of court and hauled off to jail in handcuffs, igniting protests from religious conservatives. They rallied for days at her office, at the jail and outside the judge's home.

The timing of her release after just five days came as something of a surprise. Last week, Bunning said that he might reconsider his decision to jail her in a week.

Five of Davis' six deputy clerks - all except her son, Nathan - agreed to issue licenses to gay couples with Davis behind bars. In lifting the contempt order, Bunning asked for updates on the clerks' compliance every two weeks.

On Tuesday, Staver, Davis' lawyer, maintained that the licenses issued by her deputies are invalid. But the Kentucky attorney general's office said it believes otherwise.

Dan Canon, an attorney representing the couples who sued, said they will ask the judge to again hold Davis in contempt if she returns to work and blocks her deputies from issuing licenses.

"We are hoping she is going to comply with it. We'll have to see," Canon said. "But if experience is a teacher, Ms. Davis just doesn't believe that court orders apply to her."

Davis' dispute has offered some of the GOP presidential candidates an opportunity to appeal to the party's evangelical Christian wing, which opposes gay marriage and has cast her jailing as an issue of religious freedom.

On Monday, her lawyers took their case to a federal appeals court, asking that she be allowed to remove her name and title from marriage certificates issued in Rowan County so that she would not have to act against her conscience.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat like Davis, reiterated Tuesday that he will not call a special session of the legislature to overhaul the marriage-licensing process by taking it out of the hands of county officials and making it a state function.

"Hopefully we can move forward now. We need to be thinking about so many things about the future of Kentucky," he said.

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who recently bicycled more than 400 miles across Kentucky in solidarity with Kim Davis, called her jailing a "total injustice." He is not related to her.

He said he is not issuing any marriage licenses, and suspects the conflict could come to his county next. He said only one same-sex couple has inquired about a license in his county and was told there were no licenses being issued, and that's the last Davis heard from them.

He said he, too, would be willing to go to jail.

WATCH: Reporter asks Kim Davis 'Was it worth it?'

Reporter Asks Kim Davis 'Was It Worth It?'

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