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Freedom to Marry effort in Kentucky starts with Louisville


Jacob Conway

By Curtis Morrison

Everybody outside the state seems to think that in Kentucky, when momma and daddy get divorced, they’re still first cousins.

Now the question is, “Will daddy be able to marry Uncle Jed?” (Come on … we all knew he and Mr. Drysdale were having a thing.)

This should prove an interesting gambit – getting Kentucky Democrats to send a progressive message to national leaders.

But unlikely as it sounds, the effort already has begun in Louisville.

“Lexington gets quite a bit of attention as the most-inclusive city in Kentucky,” says Jacob Conway. “But we sure beat them back to the barn tonight.”

Conway is an Executive Committee member of the Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky Democratic Party.

At Wednesday night’s Executive Committee meeting, he introduced a “Resolution Calling the Democratic National Convention to Endorse Freedom to Marry for All Americans.”

The resolution, which easily passed, urges the September 2012 Democratic National Convention to adopt marriage equality in the party’s national platform. The resolution will be sent all over the place, but most importantly, to the KDP to pass along at the fall convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Conway decided to take up the effort after he was approached by a leader in the national equality movement to sponsor Freedom to Marry’s nationwide campaign in the KDP platform plank. Since the KDP doesn’t have a platform plank, Conway figured passing the resolution from Kentucky’s largest city was the next best thing.

“Everyone supported it except for a couple members who expressed reservations due to their Christian faith,” said Conway. “Which was funny really, because longtime party chair Bill Ryan, and vice chair Allison Newman Amon expressed it was their faith that caused them to support the resolution.”

The local organization’s executive committee is made up of three Democratic Party representatives from each of the 19 state legislative districts in Jefferson County, as well as representatives from the Jefferson County Democratic Women’s Club and the Louisville Young Democrats.

The 11-point resolution notes all the places where marriage equality is already the law. It notes how President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden support marriage equality. Conway’s resolution was mostly identical to resolutions already passed by Democratic Parties in other states, except that he did borrow a page from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s playbook.

For paragraph #8, the resolution reads: “WHEREAS, it is the right thing to do.”

In July of 2011, Fischer through declaration extended domestic partnership benefits to city employees. His declaration included the phrase, “And WHEREAS, this is a matter of fairness, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Conway was kidding – mostly – about competing with Lexington.

In 2007, Lexington was listed on The Advocate magazine’s “Top 10 Best Places For Gays and Lesbians to Live.” When Mayor Jim Gray took office in January 2011, Lexington became the third largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor.

From Conway’s perspective, the big picture is that Louisville really is a progressive city, and it’s time to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

“Louisville’s gay community has been there for Democratic party candidates for years.” said Conway. “I thought it was high time to show that the party also supports the gay community.”

Obtaining marriage equality can be confusing.

Freedom to Marry’s Roadmap to Victory campaign, to end marriage discrimination in the United States, is a three-track strategy, which the organization insists is to be followed simultaneously:

The campaign’s first track is making same sex marriage legal in more states, the second track is for participants to tell their stories “to grow the majority for marriage.” The campaign’s third track is ending federal discrimination by defeating the federal 2004 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), either through a Supreme Court ruling, or legislatively through the passing of the Respect Marriage Act (RPA).

The RPA would repeal the federal DOMA. Kentucky’s only federal legislator to co-sponsor the RPA is Congressman John Yarmuth (D-3).

Since the Kentucky constitution was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between one man and one woman, marriage equality in Kentucky will also take the added step of repealing that constitutional amendment.

Kentucky’s gay rights organizations such as the Fairness Campaign and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance are focusing first on statewide fairness, to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and accommodation statewide. The groups have made anti-bullying legislation a priority as well.

“The Democratic Party leadership for the largest city in Kentucky is now on the record as supporting the freedom to marry,” Conway said.

“This sends the message nationwide that Louisville is progressive, we’re inclusive – and looking at any map – we’re left of Lexington.”

About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a journalist and political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts. He is a board member of Neighborhoods Planning and Preservation.


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