Saw the emotional video clip of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who wants to run for Governor and knows he may have just sunk himself by refusing to appeal the federal decision holding, correctly, that Kentucky must honor same sex marriages solemnized in jurisdictions where they were legal.
I feel his pain, and one part of his statement resonated particularly, where he talked about what his daughter would think when she grows up.
I used to be a judge on the Austin Municipal Court, serving two year terms at the pleasure of the City Council, although they cannot remove you during a term except for cause. In those days, the political strings were pulled by real estate developers, but as a group they didn't have a lot of interest in who served on the Municipal Court.
Austin passed a public accommodations ordinance that included "sexual orientation" in a list of protected categories of Austinites. Two men and two women were kicked out of a disco because the men were dancing with each other, as were the women.
The prosecutions for violating the ordinance went to a jury trial in front of me. Jury selection was a challenge. Homosexual conduct was, at the time, a crime, and when a larger than customary jury panel was ask how many thought homosexual conduct was "wrong," EVERY ONE raised their hand.
My acid test for picking jurors, which was my idea on the fly, went "We all agree that there's a limit on the amount of sexual conduct is allowed in public without giving cause to eject the couple. Would you draw the limit in a different place for a same sex couple than for anybody else?"
If yes, they were gone without asking about the difference or the reason for it. If no, I seated them.
The jury convicted in both cases and set a maximum fine.
The disco then asked me to declare the Austin public accommodations ordinance to be unconstitutional as applied to gay people.
I took the motion under advisement. At that point, I started getting phone calls from people who I would have thought didn't even know who was on the Municipal Court, advising me "for my own good" and for the good of the city, that ordinance needed to fail.
I wound up writing a 16 page opinion upholding the ordinance and the reason I used so many words to explain myself was my son Paul, who was then only 4 years old.
I never said this to anybody but close friends at the time, but I knew that some day Paul would know that dad used to be a judge and he got fired. I was not so much worried about justifying my decision to the lawyers, although I wanted to leave those tracks for the case on appeal to Bob Perkins, but I wanted to justify the decision to the future Paul. I wanted him to understand why I had to blow off having a judicial career.
As those of you from Austin know, it didn't turn out that way.
I didn't just survive; I prospered. In the rearview mirror, that decision did my political fortunes more good than harm.
Looking at it at the time, the political custom was to answer the questions posed by the Austin Lesbian-Gay Political Caucus--just about everybody answered---and if you got endorsed, your name went on slate cards in the gay bars. It was an endorsement sought but not generally advertised. There was no reason to think the constituency for gay rights was as big as the one against, and while I knew lots of gay people, they had enough sense to know you are not supposed to talk to a judge about a pending case. None did.
This is why, watching that Kentucky AG potentially flushing his career and speaking of his decision in terms of how he would explain himself later to his adult child....I was feeling his pain.
It goes without saying that I hope the political outcome is the same for him as it was for me, but Kentucky voters are not Austin voters.