Interview with Ernesto Scorsone, December 11, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: So Ernesto, painting with broad strokes, tell us about yourself and your early memories, especially those connections to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Ernesto Scorsone is introduced and talks about his family's moves from Italy to Argentina to the United States and why he ultimately settled in Kentucky.

Keywords: 1960; Argentina; Eastern Kentucky University; Family; Fathers; Italy; Kentucky; Mothers; Moving; New York; Parents; United States

Subjects: Childhood; Emigration and immigration.; Families.

00:01:25 - Coming out

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Partial Transcript: Um, so thinking about, um, your LGBTQ identity and, and a major milestone for so many LGBTQ folks is, uh, is coming out.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about being a 'late bloomer' and not coming out until after finishing law school. He talks about the process of coming out, including his struggle regarding his professional career due to a lack of role models.

Keywords: 1978; Activism; Attorneys; Boston (Ma.); Catholic; Challenges; Civil rights; Comfortable; Counselors; Dating; Friends; Gay bars; Gay rights; Law schools; Priests; Professionals; Role models; Struggles; Support groups; Traumatic

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay community; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Sexual minorities--Identity.

00:05:36 - Welcoming and unwelcoming places in Kentucky for LGBTQ people

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, certainly even before taking on some of these things it sounds like, uh, you know, U, UK was a, a space where, um, you know, you went to school and you were, you were thinking about some of these identity components.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about why he left Eastern Kentucky University after participating in student protests and came to the University of Kentucky. He talks about some of the places in Kentucky that were welcoming and some that were not, and says that gay bars were one of the only comfortable spaces. He talks about meeting another LGBTQ person in the law field and the complicated way they each had to figure it out.

Keywords: Anti-war movement; Civil rights; Connections; Courtrooms; Criminal law; Eastern Kentucky University; GSO; Gay bars; Hidden; Law schools; Lexington (Ky.); Parents; Politics; Secrets; Student rights; Undergraduate education; University administration; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Closeted gays.; College campuses.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay community; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Student protesters; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements

00:11:09 - Becoming involved in politics

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Partial Transcript: So I think completely connected to that in so many ways, tell us about your, um, your early professional life and, and your transition into politics.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about his early interest in politics during high school, his involvement with lobbying for students' rights in Frankfort during college, and his involvement in political campaigns before running for office himself. He tells a story about an opponent who attempted to out him during a campaign.

Keywords: 1970s; 1977; 1984; Board of trustees; Frankfort (Ky.); High schools; Hunger strikes; Legislature; Lobbying; Names; Outing; Political campaigns; Professional life; Running for office; Senate; Speaker of the House; Student government presidents; University of Kentucky; Voting

Subjects: Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--Identity.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Sexual orientation.

00:15:36 - Coming out while being a political figure

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Partial Transcript: How do you think, um, in the earliest days, uh, you know, beyond this, uh, this, uh, you know, perhaps miss from your opponent in outing you...

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about not hiding his sexual orientation while running for office or serving as a political figure. He talks about the way he decided to officially come out as a political figure in order to not make it a big deal and talks about how the other Senators reacted. He talks about his work on legislation to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.

Keywords: 1998; Anti-discrimination protection; Awareness; Changes; Comfortable; Congress; Dynamics; Gay bars; Gay causes; Gay issues; Governor Paul Patton; Husband; Legislation; Lobbying; Open; Out; Political campaigns; Public figures; Public personas; Public statements; Re-election; Relationships; Senators; Sexuality; Speeches; State employees

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--Identity.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Sexual orientation.

00:21:53 - Involvement with LGBTQ-related legislation--Part I

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned, um, your, uh, your anti-discrimination work that, that ultimately made it to Governor Patton.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks more about his work on legislation to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination. He talks about his work on including LGBTQ protections in hate crime legislation. He talks about Paul Mason's work on AIDS legislation and education. He discusses his role in challenging Kentucky's sodomy laws.

Keywords: 1985; AIDS education; AIDS legislation; Anti-discrimination protection; Arrests; Bullying legislation; Challenges; Civil rights; Criminal defense; Dates; Dragnets; Gay bars; Governor Ernie Fletcher; Governor Paul Patton; Governor Steve Beshear; Governor's crime bill; Hate crime legislation; Hate crimes; Job loss; Judge Tim Philpot; Judiciary committee; Legislature; Lobbying; Paul Mason; Provisions; Ramifications; Republicans; Rescinded; Scandals; Senate; Sex workers; Sodomy laws; Supreme Court; Timing

Subjects: Discrimination.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Sexual orientation.

00:30:44 - Involvement with LGBTQ organizations

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Partial Transcript: So you've also had a great deal of impact, uh, in, in creating, helping create, or, or supporting the early days of, of LGBT groups or, or related organizations here in town.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about his involvement in LGBTQ groups like the Pride Community Services Organization (PCSO), JustFundKY, and the AIDS Walk, among others. He talks about the importance of forming a state-wide LGBTQ organization and an endowment to help it continue into the future.

Keywords: AIDS Walk; Amendments; Backlash; Barney Frank; Corporate sponsors; Drag queens; Endowments; Fundraisers; JustFundKY; Kentucky Educational Television (KET); LGBTQ groups; Legislature; Pride Community Services Organization (PCSO); Sodomy laws; State constitution; State-wide group

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); Gay community; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Lexington (Ky.)--Social conditions; Lexington (Ky.).

00:36:30 - Involvement with LGBTQ-related legislation--Part II

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, yet an, another important battle you've been a part of for LGBTQ folks in, um, in Kentucky has been around, uh, domestic violence protection for, for same-sex couples.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about his work have LGBTQ couples included in domestic violence protection legislation.

Keywords: Appeals; Civil rights; Court of Appeals; Domestic violence act; Domestic violence legislation; Domestic violence victims; Ireland v. Davis; Judges; Legislature; Protection

Subjects: Discrimination.; Gay couples--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Sexual orientation.

00:38:38 - Husband, John Davis

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Partial Transcript: Uh, shifting back a little bit out of, um, you know, out of the legislative mode to, to thinking about um--you know in a more personal family way...

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about how he met his now-husband, John Davis. He talks about their shared interests.

Keywords: AIDS Walk; Front Runners; Gay running groups; Hobbies; Houses; Husband; Interests; John Davis; Kentucky Fairness Alliance; Politics; Wedding bands

Subjects: Gay community; Gay couples.

00:42:06 - Current work as a circuit court judge

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so tell us about, um, your current work, um, as a, as a circuit court judge and, um, and, and what is exciting or challenging in, in 2017 for, for Ernesto Scorsone.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about his current work as a Fayette Circuit Court Judge. He talks about how he has been accepted by his fellow judges. He talks about some of the accomplishments that he is most proud of.

Keywords: 'Judicial prom'; Acceptance; Awareness; Circuit court judges; Conciliation conferences; Criminal justice system; Education legislation; Foreclosures; Healthcare legislation; Husband; John Davis; Out; Proud; Spouses

Subjects: Educational law and legislation--Kentucky; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Healthcare law and legislation--Kentucky; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Sexual orientation.

00:46:39 - Involvement with healthcare and education legislation

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Partial Transcript: Well that, that raises another, maybe a, a two-part good question here.

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about some of his proudest accomplishments in terms of healthcare and education legislation.

Keywords: 1990; Board of Trustees; Coldstream Research Campus; Education legislation; End of life care; Funding; Healthcare legislation; Higher education; Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); Living wills; Mammogram screenings; Minority representation; Proud; Republicans; Teachers; University of Kentucky; Women's health

Subjects: Education, Higher--Kentucky; Educational law and legislation--Kentucky; Healthcare law and legislation--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky

00:51:01 - Plans for the future

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Partial Transcript: So in 2017, a, and looking towards the future, what, what excites you and what do you, what do you want to engage in?

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about his role as a fundraiser to continue to help LGBTQ people in Kentucky into the future.

Keywords: Connections; Endowments; Fundraising; Future; Generations; Older people; Roles

Subjects: Gay community; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.

00:53:08 - University of Kentucky as a leader in Lexington on LGBTQ issues

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Partial Transcript: So as we wrap up, um, is there anything you want to tell us or talk about that we haven't asked?

Segment Synopsis: Scorsone talks about UK's role in Lexington in terms of pushing forward LGBTQ protections and being a role model for other businesses. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Corporate sponsorships; Domestic partnership benefits; Fairness ordinances; Fundraisers; Leadership; Lee Todd; Opportunities; Power; Role models; State-wide fairness alliances

Subjects: College administrators; College environment; College presidents; Gay community; Gay rights--United States.; Gay rights.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Lexington (Ky.); University of Kentucky