by David Schankula
Next month marks the 11th anniversary of Jim Newberry’s colossally failed run for United States Congress.
In a 7 person primary field, Jim Newberry would finish a distant fifth. In the process, though, he played one game of politics that would make Dick Cheney blush.
On May 7th, 1998, the candidates for Scotty Beasler’s 6th District seat gathered for a KET debate. Newberry showed up knowing his campaign was lost — so he decided to do something bold, something brash, something belligerently despicable.
The front runner in the race, and the eventual primary winner, was Ernesto Scorsone. With no chance of winning, Jim Newebberry chose to attack his fellow Democrat in the crassest way possible.
Pointing to Scorsone’s career as a defense attorney, Jim Newberry lamented the American principle that guarantees all those who stand accused of a crime the right to defend themselves. Newberry explained that Scorsone, a defense attorney, was unfit for office because he represented “drug dealers” and “child molesters” instead of the people of this state.
But worse than anything else, a disgusted Jim Newberry proclaimed:
“In 1992, as a result of Ernesto’s efforts, our sodomy laws were declared unenforceable in this state.”
Now, dear Lexington, back in the dark ages of the last century, many states used to have these things called “sodomy laws.” Sodomy laws were enacted specifically to criminalize homosexual activity — if you were gay and you engaged in consensual sex, you were on the wrong side of the law.
In 1992, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled the Commonwealth’s sodomy laws violated not only the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to privacy, but also the guarantee to equal protection under the law. Scorsone represented the accused in the case.
So, if it wasn’t for that bastard Ernesto Scorsone, Jim Newberry would still live a protected life and homosexual sex would still be criminalized.
It’s also worth noting that Scorsone was not at the time openly gay. By inserting this non-issue into the primary election, Jim Newberry was able to ratchet up a rumor-campaign about Scrosone’s “alternative lifestyle.”
Now, sure, you say, let’s give Jim Newberry the benefit of the doubt. That was last century! People change. Our minds open.
Surely Jim Newberry is now willing to acknowledge the error of his ways?
Ah, alas, no, dear Lexington. The Herald-Leader asked Jim Newberry about his insane comments during his 2006 mayoral campaign:
Newberry says his views haven’t changed since the KET debate. “I didn’t consider myself to be homophobic then, and I don’t consider myself to be homophobic now,” he said.
Almost undoubtedly, Jim Newberry didn’t think of himself as homophobic then, and he doesn’t consider himself to be homophobic now.
But he does still believe we’d all be better off if the state’s “Sodomy Laws” were still in place?
Jim Newberry still believes homosexuality should be a criminal offense?
Newberry won that mayor election. He was sworn in on January 1st, 2007.
Three months later, in March of 2007, Lexington was named one of the “Top 10 Best Places for Gays and Lesbians to Live” by The Advocate magazine.
In 2010, this city gets to elect a new Mayor.