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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is officially joining the fight to allow same-sex marriage.

The mayor, while in Dallas on Friday for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, became one of nearly 500 members of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, a project of the national group Freedom to Marry.

"It is clear to me that discrimination of any form should not be tolerated and that committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the protections that only marriage can provide," Fischer said in a statement.

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with the Family Foundation of Kentucky, said people should not mistake Fischer's announcement for political courage.

"Jumping on a bandwagon is not political courage," Cothran said. He said the decision might have been courageous 10 years ago. "It's not now, at least not in the Democratic Party."

However, Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who married her partner Laura in Maryland in September 2013, said she was extremely grateful for Fischer joining the movement, appreciated his leadership and was not surprised. Ward-Pugh said Fischer has always been clear about his support for all people being treated with fairness, dignity and respect, and his announcement is the "next step in an evolution I am grateful for."

Fischer becomes the first mayor of a large city in Kentucky to join the effort, according to Freedom to Marry.

"It really does show that people in Kentucky are evolving and opening their hearts and changing their minds, just as a majority of Americans have," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. "When I started this work, most Americans did not support the freedom to marry."

Cothran said Fischer is free to join the effort, but "we'd like to see mayors joining groups that support judicial integrity, which we think is the problem in this debate." He said judges are making political — not legal and fair –– decisions, and "if the current trend continues and the Supreme Court doesn't stop it, but instead jumps on the bandwagon, then it is probably going to continue."

"The courts aren't following the law," Cothran said.

Wolfson praised Fischer and others joining the project.

Other mayors involved in the effort, chaired by Kasim Reed of Atlanta, include Julián Castro of San Antonio; Annise Parker of Houston; Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; Greg Stanton of Phoenix; Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles; and Kevin Faulconer of San Diego, a Republican. Mayors from 39 states have joined the Freedom to Marry initiative.

Wolfson said that advocates, through legislation and court victories, have secured the right to marry in 19 states and that more Americans, in every region including the South, now support gay marriage.

In a Bluegrass Poll conducted in February, 55 percent of Kentuckians surveyed opposed gay marriage, but that was down from 72 percent opposing it in a 2004 version of the poll.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled earlier this year that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the state. Attorney General Jack Conway opted not to contest the ruling, but Gov. Steve Beshear hired private attorneys to appeal the ruling.

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