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Beshear, Conway explain differing same-sex marriage decisions

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 5, 2014 at 11:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 6 at 12:55 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- On a day marked by a civil rights commemoration and the first ever hearing of legislation to extend anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians statewide, the key players in Kentucky's inner conflict over same-sex marriage explained their respective decisions.

"He wrestled with it and I wrestled with it," Governor Steve Beshear (D) told reporters after participating in a rally maring the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort.  Beshear said each had kept the other apprised of his plans and the decisions were not motivated by politics.

"I am on the right side of history here," said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D).

Under fire by gay rights advocates for his decision to appeal a federal judge's gay marriage order, Governor Steve Beshear said Wednesday that the appeal actually helps both sides.

"They all deserve to know what the rules are going to be so that we can all act accordingly," Beshear said.

Beshear declined to reveal his personal views or whether he even wants his appeal to succeed.

"I don't think it's appropriate as governor and as a party to this lawsuit for me to interject my personal feelings into this," Beshear explained.  "It's my duty as governor to make sure that we find out the ultimate status of the law."

But Conway, who refused to appeal the federal ruling, made it clear he not only supports recognizing gay marriages from other states, but gay couples should be allowed to marry in Kentucky.

"I think to say no is to discriminate," Conway said.  "The judge didn't tell a congregation what they had to do, didn't tell a minister what they have to do, but equal justice under the law is something different."

Conway - who's expected to run for governor next year - acknowledged getting political advice before announcing what he says is not a political decision.

"I had counselors telling me that this was going to be 'political suicide for you,'" Conway recalled.  "I had people telling me that obviously it's a 20 point issue in this state.  I don't think it's going to be the overriding issue in the fall of 2015."

In 2004, 74% of Kentuckians voted for a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages and civil unions,
In last month's WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, only 35% of Kentuckians supported allowing gay marriage.
Daunting numbers as Conway prepares to run for governor.

Conway acknowledged he considered making the opposite decision, to appeal the federal gay marriage order as Attorney General yet issuing a statement explaining his personal feelings.

"If I did that everyone would think I was wishy-washy," Conway said.

Ultimately, Conway says his wife, Elizabeth, guided him to follow his convictions and his legacy.

"She said, you've got little daughters 4 and 2, what's going to be their judgment of you in the future?" Conway said.

Conway said that's what was going through his mind during his Tuesday announcement when the tears began to fall.

"I lost it" Conway laughed.  "I didn't plan on doing that, and once it started I couldn't really stop. I've never really done that at a press conference before.  Look, I'm human. I'm human. A lot of times, people expect me to try not to be, to be cold or calculating all the time.  But, I'm human and for the past couple of weeks, I've been under siege. I was hearing from both sides."
 
Responding to a question from WHAS11, Conway said he was willing to accept losing the governor's race as a result of his decision.

"I draw the line at discrimination," Conway said.  "If people like you next 2015 look up and say, 'Well, he's had his moment but that cost him the governor's race, I'll have my head held high."

"The public accommodations issue was settled by a Supreme Court decision.  It started with Brown v. Board of Education," Beshear said.  This issue will be settled by a Supreme Court decision."

 

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