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Kim Davis Met Pope Francis In Washington, D.C., Attorney Says


A big question today - what led to a meeting between Kim Davis and Pope Francis? Davis is the Kentucky county clerk who's refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after the Supreme Court ordered it. Today, she said she had a private meeting with the pontiff during his American tour last week. Mat Staver is a lawyer for Ms. Davis, and he joins me now. Welcome to the program.

MAT STAVER: Thank you. My pleasure to be with you.

SIEGEL: Your client met with the pope Thursday here in Washington D.C. at the Vatican's embassy where the pontiff stayed while he was in town. How did the meeting get set up? Who called whom?

STAVER: Well, I don't want to go into details as to how the meeting was called or the logistics of getting her there. But it was just Pope Francis, Kim Davis, her husband Joe and other papal staff and security. No one else was in the room. Pope Francis came out. He held out his hands. He asked Kim Davis to pray for him. And she clasped his hands. She said she would. And she asked the pontiff to pray for her, and he said he would. He encouraged her. He said thank you for your courage, and he also said stay strong. And he also gave Kim and Joe Davis two rosaries. Kim Davis's mother and father are lifelong Catholics, so Kim Davis presented those to her mother and father. And her father said if he lives to be 200 years old, it's the most important gift he'll ever receive, so...

SIEGEL: We should say, she herself, your client, is an Apostolic Christian.

STAVER: She is.

SIEGEL: I know you didn't want to part with details about how this came about but, you know, we live on details in the news business.

STAVER: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: So how many days' notice did Ms. Davis have that this meeting would take place?

STAVER: Well, the general was probably about 10 days and then the evening before, on Wednesday night, was confirmed and then Thursday morning, details in terms of the exact time confirmed. And the meeting occurred on Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

SIEGEL: And you say the meeting took about how long - a quarter of an hour or...

STAVER: Well, it was - I don't know exactly. I didn't have the timer on that. But she was there at the Vatican probably about an hour and a half or so from start to finish. But that was going through security and waiting. The meeting with the pontiff was brief. It was certainly less than 15 minutes, and it was a cordial, very warm meeting. She was moved by his compassion and his obvious kindness. And she said she felt she was in the presence of someone who really loved Jesus and was very caring.

SIEGEL: Today Kim Davis told ABC News this. (Reading) Just knowing the pope is on track with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, kind of validates everything. Is she confident that the pope supported her in her refusal to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples in defiance of the courts?

STAVER: Well, I don't think that's what she means. And certainly, that's not what this meeting was about. But I think the broad message and what Kim was referring to is that the pope, both before and certainly during and with this meeting, I think reaffirmed his strong commitment to a universal human right of religious freedom. And that really is the broad message, and that's what he's supporting.

SIEGEL: Just to be clear, the pope spent a lot more time with President Obama than what you've described. He spent time with Mark Wahlberg. He spent time with lots of people. As you understand it, was he specifically conferring support to Kim Davis about the issue that has made her world-famous?

STAVER: Well, I can't say, you know, what was in the pope's mind. I can say that obviously he would approve any meeting that he would have as a private meeting. He would know the background of the person. He would know who he's meeting with. And obviously, he would know Kim Davis, and he would know the story of Kim Davis. And so he saw a woman, I believe, who went to jail because of her faith. And he is a very strong advocate of the human right of religious freedom. And I think that's why this meeting ultimately occurred.

SIEGEL: Mr. Staver, thanks for talking with us about it.

STAVER: Thank you, my pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel. He's a lawyer for Kim Davis who, we now know, met Pope Francis when he was on his American tour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.