Two years ago, at this very site, I came out and endorsed marriage equality.
My announcement wasn't a matter of courage at all -- I'd put behind my life in the arena after two terms as Kentucky State Treasurer, and as I embraced my new status as a recovering politician, I didn't plan on ever looking back.
Indeed it was both a matter of conscience -- I'd supported gay marriage ever since I had heard of the concept -- as well as an apology: I had traded principle for electoral viability in a state that had passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions by a 3 to 1 margin in 2004.
So as I proudly watched national public sentiment dramatically shift on the subject over the past few years, I still didn't expect any active statewide politicians in my old (conservative) Kentucky home to join me. After all, a recently released 2012 poll showed that support for marriage equality among Kentucky voters dramatically trailed the national average -- at an embarrassing 33 percent approval clip.
Worse, in the recently-concluded session of the Kentucky General Assembly, a vast majority of Democratic and Republican legislators joined together to override Governor Steve Beshear's brave veto of legislation -- posed misleadingly as a "religious freedom bill" -- that could undermine ordinances in Lexington and Louisville that protect the LGBT community from job and housing discrimination. If politicians couldn't stand for simple fairness, how could they be brave enough to support marriage equality?
However, with nearly the entire U.S. Senate Democratic majority lining up to legalize same-sex marriage, one liberal Kentucky columnist -- LEO Weekly's Joe Sonka -- decided to put the state's five Democratic statewide elected constitutional officers to the test, asking each of them their position on the issue. Sonka"s tweets revealed his skepticism about their responses: He guessed two would say "no," two wouldn't respond, and one would offer gibberish.
But then the unexpected happened. First Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, the former uber-popular "Mayor-for-Life" of Louisville announced his support:
"I don't believe government should judge which adults can and which cannot make a loving, life-long commitment to each other. That's why both Madeline and I support marriage equality for all adults."
And then, within a few hours, Auditor Adam Edelen -- who at 38 is one of the Democrats' bright young stars -- declared his support, arguing:
"I believe equal protection of the law and equality of opportunity are central to the American experiment and they ought to apply to every American."
I know both Abramson and Edelen well, and understand that their announcements came from their sincere support of the true American value of equality for all. But I also can attest that both are very savvy politicians, who wouldn't stake out a position that could result in their imminent political demise. They understand that in the 2015 gubernatorial race -- which both men are considering -- support for marriage equality will no longer be a disqualifier in the general election, and could indeed be a pre-requisite for winning a Democratic primary.
Will Abramson and Edelen's courageous stands lead to a tidal wave of Kentucky Democratic support? It's too early to tell.
But if you too support marriage equality, I urge you to thank Jerry Abramson and Adam Edelen for their statements. We are always bad-mouthing politicians that disappoint us. So, why not thank true leaders when they make a selfless, brave announcement? And if they accrue some political mileage out of their actions, it will encourage others to follow their lead and join the marriage equality bandwagon.
You can truly make a difference by letting them know that they truly have made a difference.