Jack Conway: Bluegrass Courage!



As the saying goes you are allowed no more than just fifteen minutes of fame. There are just too many people to absorb in our brave new world of social media. However, just hit the pause button for a minute. Take just an extra minute or two if you missed it earlier this week to see an endangered species that is available for viewing right now.

What kind? An elected official with real courage.

KyxKentucky Attorney General Conway, in one of the most homophobic states in America, held an astounding press conference refusing to use the powers of his office to defend the state's ban on gay marriage. (Watch the video of the conference here).

If you think that Conway is some old liberal who has nothing to lose you could not be more wrong. The Attorney General is the future of the Democratic Party in Kentucky and the rising star is viewed as very likely to be the next Governor. There is a real possibility in taking this position he could have seriously hurt his future chances in the Bluegrass State.

The latest poll out of Kentucky has 55% of the people opposing gay marriage, one of the highest percentages in the United States.

Conway is a good old boy handsome pol who is Catholic. He has had a presence in Kentucky politics for years. To make him even more Kentuckian, he and his father raised thoroughbred horses and actually had one run in the Kentucky Derby. When he ran for Attorney General the Louisville Courier-Journal found him to be a moderate to conservative Democrat who came out against marriage equality.

Said Conway  in an interview this week with TPM:

"Conway, who opposed same-sex marriage during his failed run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, wouldn't pinpoint when he changed his mind to support full marriage equality. 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."


"To discriminate and not allow two people to marry does not have a rational basis under the law, and therefore it cannot withstand scrutiny under the equal protection [clause of the 14th Amendment]," Conway said, arguing that laws against gay marriage are unconstitutional.

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."

So, those of you who think there aren't people of courage in politics, think again. For one shining moment in Kentucky, a man of real courage and conviction stood up against hatred and discrimination no matter what the political costs.

Take a minute and savor his courage because it just doesn't happen as often as it should in American politics.


  1. reality says

    ^ I am sometimes brought to tears when speaking about friends dealing with immigration, or women fighting for equal payment, or children suffering in Syria … that doesn’t mean there’s “more to the story”

  2. Brian W. says


    I think we are giving this guy way too much credit.

    It’s not surprising that a DEMOCRAT would refuse to defend a gay marriage ban in 2014. It would actually be more of a headline if he chose to defend it.

  3. Mike says

    @Reality, of course it does; it means that you have a personal relationship with someone of whom you are speaking.
    I highly doubt that you’d be brought to tears speaking about immigration if you didn’t personally know someone suffering due to this injustice.

  4. Tarc says

    We desperately need a law that bans people that are too stupid or too ignorant to understand that humans did not suddenly appear 6,000 years ago from holding public office or being interviewed regarding matters requiring any intelligence at all. It’d resolve a huge number of problems in the world.

  5. says

    I’m sure the band wagon effect helped – Mr Conway isn’t bucking a trend here. That said, I congratulate him on coming to a conclusion that is consistent with compassion and fairness and thank him for it. Mr Conway is, as Mr Mixner says, in office in a stringently homophobic region.

  6. Smartypants says

    Over the past few years I’ve had a chance to work in Kentucky on a few projects and have come to appreciated the hospitality and decency of many of the people there. But David Mixner is right. It is still a very anti-marriage state and this is a considerable risk for a rising Democrat who hopes to become governor. Keep in mind this is the same state that elects Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to the U.S. Senate. AG Conway has stood by his convictions and I suspect that will only help his long-term prospects even if he takes a serious hit in the interim. Contrast his courage with the craven decision by the wildly popular Democratic Governor Stephen Beshear who has vowed to hire outside counsel to fight marriage equality since the Attorney General Conway will not. Conway deserves recognition and appreciation for his courage.

  7. tinkerbelle says

    I think he really feels he can change things. Maybe choking up is a ploy, but he is not that good of an actor. There may be a backstory, but all the better. He is a democrat after all. I welcome him to our team. Thank you, Mr. Conway.

  8. jd says

    As a Kentuckian I agree that this decision was brave on the part of Mr. Conway. Kentucky like most states in the south is very conservative but like most places in this country we are moving forward. When Mr. Mixner gives out the 55% against gay marriage we must remember that just ten years ago 75% of the populace voted for the constitutional amendment. Mr. Conway’s biggest obstacle is his utter lack of campaigning ability. There really was no reason why he shouldn’t have won the senators race in 2010 except he overplayed his hand and went negative at the wrong time. Hopefully by next year he will have learned from his mistakes when the governors race is held. On our current governors decision on a completely rational basis I understand why he did what he did. This issue will ultimately be decided in the courts and there is no reason Kentucky shouldn’t be a part of that, but selfishly I think he should have just let the decision stand. Gov. Beshear has actually been good to the gay community in Kentucky for the most part. And don’t forget Lexington has an out gay man as mayor as well as the small (and I do mean small) community of Vicco in the heart of the coal fields in Eastern KY. So we aren’t completely bass-ackwards.

  9. says

    Kentucky had a choice between Jack Conway & Rand Paul to send to DC. They choose Paul.

    Is it possible they just wanted him out of the state? Hoping he wouldn’t find his way back?

    Jack lost his lifelong best friend Victor Perrone at the age of 23. They were as brothers. Can’t guarantee it but I get the feeling he was thinking about Victor when he choked up.

    Jack is going to be OK in Kentucky. Rand Paul has shown himself to be an empty feed bag on every issue and there’s one thing no Kentuckian can long tolerate is an empty feed bag.

  10. pejsek says

    There’s a difference between sincerity and political courage. I don’t know Conway personally, so I can’t say whether he is sincere. But I do know that evolving on marriage equality in 2014 is not politically courageous. The writing is on the wall: no anti-equality Democratic politician, no matter from which state, is going to have a viable political future in the long term and probably not even in the short term (public opinion on this issue even in the South is changing rapidly, and that certainly can’t have escaped Conway’s attention). If Conway had come out in support of equality five, ten, or (god forbid!) fifteen years ago, then we could talk about courage, but not now. Let’s celebrate his statement, but must we set the courage bar so pathetically low?

  11. Rick says

    Just another example of how white, heterosexual males–the group hated and cursed by the Far Left–continue to be the leaders, movers, and shakers when it comes to gay rights, while women and non-whites–whom the Far Left kowtows to–sit on their hands for the most part and do absolutely nothing to help us…..

  12. SteveInDE says

    What “old saying” says that you are allowed only fifteen minutes of fame? Andy Warhol said, “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Hugh Downs, later misquoting Andy Warhol, was more prescient when he said “In fifteen minutes, everyone will be famous.”

    Sure, it’s nit-picking, but making up an old adage to make a point is rather lazy.

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