Democrat Jack Conway, Kentucky’s elected attorney general and a prospective candidate for governor next year, tells Talking Points Memo why he cannot defend his state’s law banning recognition of same-sex marriages:
He said he came around “over the last few years” after conversations with friends in the gay community, and after thinking about how his two daughters would come to view his decision.
“I thought long and hard. I thought about the arc of history,” he said. “I thought about the fact that at one time in this country we discriminated against women. At one time we discriminated against African-Americans and people of color. At one time we discriminated against those with disabilities. This is the last minority group in this country that a significant portion of our population thinks it’s OK to still discriminate against in any way. And I didn’t think that was right.”
Conway split with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who intends to defend the ban without the AG.
Six other state attorneys general have taken the same position that, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Windsor case, their states’ anti-gay marriage laws are unconstitutional and should not be defended.
Conway makes seven.
His announcement was seen as a political risk given the conservative politics of his state.
Barring a sudden and swift change in statewide public opinion, the decision poses potential dangers for the attorney general, who has served in the role since 2008, and told TPM he intends to run for governor in 2015 once Beshear maxes out his two terms.
“My wife Elizabeth knew what I wanted to do in my heart,” he said. “And at one point she pulled me aside and said ‘Jack, you stink when you’re not authentic.’ And at that point I knew it might cost me politically but I needed to … make a decision I could be proud of.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, also a Democrat and also a prospective candidate for governor in 2016, is holding to a different view. Cooper says it’s his duty to defend North Carolina’s ban, though he doesn’t agree with it, and he continues to defend its constitutionality against a challenge in federal court.
The N.C. ban, already a law, was added to the state constitution in 2012 with the passage of Amendment One. The amendment, a Republican measure from the General Assembly, was approved by voters during a May primary election.