LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS/AP) — A Kentucky clerk who went to jail for defying a federal court’s orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses met briefly with the pope during his historic visit to the United States.
A Vatican spokesman confirmed to the New York Times Wednesday that the encounter took place.
“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told the New York Times.
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis and her husband met privately with Pope Francis on Thursday afternoon at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., for less than 15 minutes, said her lawyer, Mat Staver.
“It was really very humbling to even think that he would want to meet me or know me,” Davis said in an interview with ABC.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, spent five days in jail earlier this month for defying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In a telephone interview late Tuesday, Staver would not say who initiated the meeting with the pope or how it came to be, though he did say that Vatican officials had inquired about Davis’ situation while she was in jail. He declined to name them.
“He told me before he left, he said ‘stay strong.’ That was a great encouragement,” Davis said of the pope during the ABC interview. “Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we’re doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything.”
She didn’t say in the interview whether she had a private audience with the pope or she was part of larger crowd.
Davis was in Washington for the Values Voter Summit, where the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, presented her with an award for defying the federal judge. While in Washington, the longtime Democrat said she was switching to the Republican party because she felt abandoned by Democrats in her fight against same-sex marriage.
Pope Francis did not focus on the divisive debate over same-sex marriage during his visit last week. As he left the country, he told reporters who inquired that he did not know Davis’ case in detail, but he defended conscientious objection as a human right.
“It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right,” Francis said.
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