The culture wars convulsed the General Assembly last week as Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, propounded Senate Bill 236, a constitutional amendment that would downsize judicial authority, neutralize fairness ordinances and immunize the historical display of the Ten Commandments on state Capitol grounds against constitutional challenge.
Political guru Al Cross called the bill a “grotesque farce.” “It wrapped gay-bashing, judge-bashing and the Ten Commandments into one bill,” Cross wrote in last Sunday’s Courier-Journal, a bill that “could bring out socially conservative voters if it gets to the November ballot.” The measure failed by one vote in the Senate but was set on the table for possible reconsideration.
Even if it clears the Senate, however, House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, isn’t likely to repeat the mistake he made two years ago, when he froze like a possum before a convoy of Bible-thumpers and allowed the anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot.
Meanwhile, Williams is taking heat. “An undertone of bigotry being exploited for down-and-dirty political purposes,” wrote Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Larry Dale Keeling. “Political opportunism at its worst at the expense of gay people,” said Wes Wright of the Fairness Alliance. Indeed, no one needs crystal balls to envision campaign ads tea-bagging some of the bill’s 16 Senate opponents as Brokeback Democrats.
Williams is “the ugliest and most disgusting form of politician there is,” wrote bluegrassreport.org blogger Mark Nickolas. “This man is simply about power.”
The prospect of losing power makes Williams more nervous than a goat in a frat house during hell week. Two beloved Lexington-area Republican senators, Tom Buford and Alice Forgy Kerr, are in tough races. Labor is poised to punish the GOP and a lengthy hospital stay failed to give the governor a sympathetic popularity spike. The stakes of this election cycle are especially high for Williams because the difference between being president of the Senate and a member of the minority party is the difference between God and dog.
BY STEVE SHAW