After five days behind bars, Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was ordered released from jail Tuesday by the judge who locked her up for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Davis exited the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky just after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning lifted the contempt order against Davis, saying he was satisfied that her deputies are fulfilling their obligation to grant licenses to same-sex couples in her absence. But he warned Davis not to interfere with them, saying, "If Defendant Davis should interfere in any way with their issuance, that will be considered a violation of this Order and appropriate sanctions will be considered."
The move came down after dozens of Davis' supporters gathered on the jailhouse lawn for what they called a rally for religious freedom. Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were also scheduled to visit Davis in jail Tuesday.
Both Huckabee and Cruz were seen entering the jail after news broke that she was to be released.
Mat Staver, an attorney for Davis and Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, released a statement Tuesday saying that while he is pleased Davis is going to be released, "she can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell, where she was incarcerated like a common criminal because of her conscience and religions convictions."
"She is now free to return to her family, her coworkers and the office where she has faithfully served for the past 27 years. We will continue to assist Kim and pursue the multiple appeals she has filed."
Davis was ordered jailed Thursday by a federal judge on a contempt charge after defying several court orders. Her lawyers spent Labor Day weekend filing appeals in an effort to force her release.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two heterosexual couples sued her. Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses, and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling.
But Davis still refused to do it, saying she could not betray her conscience or God. Bunning ruled Thursday that Davis was in contempt of court and sent her to jail. Her deputy clerks - except for her son, Nathan Davis - then issued marriage licenses to gay couples Friday with Davis behind bars.
In lifting the contempt order Tuesday, Bunning asked for updates on the five deputy clerks' compliance every two weeks.
Davis, an apostolic Christian, says gay marriage is a sin. She also says it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple because the licenses are issued under her authority. She tried in vain to have state lawmakers change the law as a legal challenge to Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban wound its way through the federal appeals court.
Davis' jailing has offered some of the many GOP presidential candidates an opportunity to appeal to the party's evangelical Christian wing, which opposes same-sex marriage and casts Davis' imprisonment as an issue of religious freedom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.