When Gov. Steve Beshear surprisingly moved six years ago to appeal a federal judge’s order striking down Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban, he insisted, “My decision was not a political decision.”
And Kentucky’s 61st governor said his son Andy Beshear’s pending candidacy for the Democratic nomination for attorney general was “absolutely not” a factor.
But in a little-noticed autobiography published in 2017 — it ranks 2,087,512 on the Amazon best-seller list — the elder Beshear wrote that both politics and Andy’s fate figured in his controversial call to defend the ban when then-Attorney General Jack Conway refused to do so, saying he would not defend a discriminatory law.
Writing in “People Over Politics,” Steve Beshear said he feared if he let Judge John Heyburn II’s ruling stand without an appeal, Republicans would have used it as “a club to beat down Democrats across the state.”
He said it could have flipped the House, then controlled by Democrats, jeopardizing “incredible strides,” such as making affordable health care more accessible.
In the book, co-written with longtime speechwriter Dan Hassert, Beshear added: “And then there was Andy, my son,” who had just kicked off his campaign for attorney general.
“To be sure, this was an issue fraught with the possibility of missteps for him,” Steve Beshear wrote.
“We talked about the issue and his conclusion was always the same,” Beshear says of his son, who in November 2019 was elected governor. “And his conclusion was always the same: ‘Dad, forget about my campaign. Do what you feel is the right thing to do.’’’
In a March 2014 interview, Steve Beshear told a Courier Journal reporter that he didn’t talk to Andy about the issue until after he made the decision.
Steve Beshear didn’t respond to a request for comment on the contradictions between his statements and his recollections in the book.
His decision to defend Kentucky’s 2004 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was one of the enduring mysteries of Kentucky’s battle over the contentious issue.
It shocked his liberal allies because he was a progressive Democrat who had issued an executive order providing protections for LGBTQ state employees, and he hired gay people in important positions on his staff.
Beshear adamantly refused to disclose his personal view on same-sex marriage.
And the only reason he gave for defending the ban at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court — that the “people of this country need to know what the rules will be going forward” — never seemed to make sense, detractors said, given those courts had cases from three other states in which to decide whether same-sex couples had the right to marry.
The book includes an entire chapter on Kentucky’s case, “Love vs. Beshear,” which the former governor describes as the most “politically and morally sensitive” issue in his two terms from 2007-15.
He discloses for the first time that he agreed with Heyburn’s momentous rulings that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and allow them within its borders.
Although Beshear says he voted for the 2004 state constitutional amendment saying marriage was only permissible between one man and one woman, he said after talking with gay friends and reading studies that showed being gay for most people is not a choice.