September 7, 2015 at 2:36 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Newsom, Huckabee spar over Kim Davis
Mike Huckabee, Gavin Newsom, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) sparred on Twitter over Kim Davis. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sparred Sunday over the comparison of the former San Francisco mayor to a Kentucky clerk found in contempt of court for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In a fiery exchange with Huckabee over Twitter, Newsom rejected the idea Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ actions are on par with his decision in 2004 to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco even though California law at the time prohibited same-sex marriage. (Same-sex marriage later became legal in the state for several months in 2008 following a ruling from the California Supreme Court and, after the passage of Proposition 8, again in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that let stand a district court ruling against the measure).

As Newsom pointed out, he discontinued issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the California Supreme Court ruled he lacked the authority to do so and the marriages of gay couples who married during that time period in San Francisco were invalid. In comparison, Davis continued to enforce her “no licenses” policy even after a federal judge ordered her to stop and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the decision.

Newsom was responding to comments Huckabee made made on ABC’s “This Week” in which he told host George Stephanopoulos that Davis should obey the law “if it’s right,” comparing her decision to withhold marriage licenses to same-sex couples to the now lieutenant governor’s defiance of Proposition 22 and President Obama’s decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

“It is that the ruling class has thumbed their nose at the the very Constitution,” Huckabee said. “You’ve got Democrats who ignored the law when it was the law to have traditional marriage, Gavin Newsom in San Francisco as major, performed same-sex weddings even though it was illegal. Did he ever get put in jail? He most certainly did not. You had Barack Obama and Eric Holder when he was Attorney General, they ignored the rulings of DOMA, did they get put in law for ignoring the law? They most certainly did not.”

After Newsom rejected the comparison on Twitter, Huckabee fired back with tweets of his own, citing newspaper articles at the time saying Newsom was flouting the law. Huckabee also drew attention to Newsom’s decision to make San Francisco a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants, which means city resources aren’t allowed to enforce federal immigration laws.

In response, Newsom accused Huckabee of “trolling,” saying the candidate hasn’t addressed the point that San Francisco stopped marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop.

Huckabee in turn responded by accusing Newsom of breaking California law and firing back with more newspaper citations. The candidate never addressed the court order requiring Newsom to stop and the former San Francisco’s mayor compliance with the decision.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, backed Newsom during an appearance Sunday on MSNBC by rejecting the comparison of the lieutenant governor to Davis, saying Newsom is the “complete opposite” of the Kentucky clerk.

“Gavin Newsom did something he believed he had the constitutional authority to do,” Wolfson said. “The court said you don’t have the authority. He stopped doing it. There were many voices on the left and the right said, ‘The court needs to decide and once the court decides, there it is.’ It’s the complete opposite of what’s happening here. She has been given an order by a federal judge.”

The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on Huckabee’s comparison of Davis to Obama for refusing to defend DOMA in court.

The situation with Davis, who remains in jail for being in contempt in court, may escalate further. Huckabee has pledged to visit in her custody on Tuesday and to take part in an anti-gay rally in Kentucky to demonstrate solidarity with her. Davis’ lawyers have appealed the contempt holding against her to the Sixth Circuit.

h/t CNN

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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