Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, dropped in on Kentucky on Tuesday in a show of support for a county clerk jailed over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Cruz, who is intensely competing for the Christian evangelical vote, had planned to meet with the clerk, Kim Davis, in jail according to his presidential campaign. Davis, who says gay marriage goes against her religious beliefs, had been locked up since last week, when she refused to comply with a federal court order to issue the licenses.
As Cruz headed to the Bluegrass State, a judge freed Davis on the condition that she not interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses. That paved the way for a boisterous rally outside the Carter County Detention Center, where one of Cruz's GOP rivals, Mike Huckabee, grabbed the spotlight.
Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, appeared alongside a sobbing Davis upon her release from the jail, and later onstage at a rally. Cruz had not been expected to participate in the rally.
"Praise God that Kim Davis is being released," Cruz wrote on Facebook. "It was an outrage that she was imprisoned for six days for living according to her Christian faith."
Both Cruz and Huckabee have been working assiduously to court Christian evangelical voters, outreach that brought them within feet of each other in Kentucky. Cruz's campaign had indicated he was not following Huckabee's lead, maintaining the senator had talked about visiting the clerk after he first learned of her arrest, and Tuesday was the day that worked best with his schedule as Congress returns from its August recess.
Huckabee is not expected to let up on championing Davis, even on Cruz's home turf. The former Arkansas governor has scheduled a media availability Wednesday in Abilene that his campaign is billing as another opportunity to discuss Davis.
Cruz has seized on Davis' case as a violation of religious liberty following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage across the country. On the day Davis was arrested, Cruz issued a statement saying "judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny" with her imprisonment.
"Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith," Cruz continued. "This is wrong. This is not America."