Ernesto Scorsone was born in Palermo, Italy, on February 15, 1952. His family immigrated to the United States in 1960.
Scorsone earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky in 1973 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1976. After a year of public defender work, he began private practice in Lexington in 1977.
A Democrat, Scorsone was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, 75th District, in 1984 and served for 12 years. In 1996, he was elected to the Kentucky Senate from the 13th District and re-elected without opposition in 2000 and 2004. He was the first openly gay member of the Kentucky General Assembly.
In 1998 Scorsone was the Democratic nominee for the open 6th district seat in the United States House of Representatives, but he lost the general election to Republican Ernie Fletcher by seven points (53%–46%). Fletcher would go on to be elected Governor.
In the legislature, Scorsone advocated for measures to protect the wellbeing of Kentuckians and to ensure equal treatment for all. Among his accomplishments while serving in the General Assembly:Co-sponsored a bill to curb school bullying and helped secure Senate passage after years of legislative defeat, 2008
Spearheaded efforts to improve the quality of care in nursing homes, 2006
Championed legislation to reduce junk food and promote physical exercise in schools, 2005
Helped pass a tough telemarketing law, 2002
Helped toughen Kentucky's Hate Crime Law, 2000
Sponsored the School Safety Act, the Children's Health Care Act, the Financial Protection of the Elderly Act, the Custodial Rights Act and the New Crime Act, which mandated violent offenders serve 85% of their sentences, 1996
Secured funding in the state budget for a drug court program in Fayette County, 1996
Led advocacy for health care reform, sponsored legislation to guarantee minority representation on school superintendent selection committees, 1994
Was primary sponsor of Living Will legislation and a bill requiring insurance companies to cover screening mammograms, 1990
Chaired a task force that recommended creating Family Courts in Kentucky, 1988. Helped obtain state funding for Kentucky's first Family Court.
His leadership on LGBT issues has been extensive and has marked much of his career. He led the legal battle to overturn Kentucky's sodomy statute and a successful legislative fight against a constitutional amendment to reinstate the law. Scorsone successfully worked to amend the state's penal code to include, the first time, a hate crime provision based on sexual orientation and helped organize the campaign for a fairness ordinance in Lexington to protect employment, housing and accommodation. He successfully petitioned and helped draft a gubernatorial executive order in 2003 protecting LGBT state employees from job discrimination.
On August 7, 2008, Governor Steve Beshear appointed Scorsone as Fayette Circuit Court Judge. In November of that year, he was elected to the post without opposition. Among other accomplishments as circuit judge, he initiated a conciliation conference process to avoid home foreclosures in Fayette County.
In March 2016, Judge Scorsone denied the State of Kentucky's request for a temporary injunction to close the EMW Women's Clinic, which the state claimed was conducting abortions without a license. This ruling was subsequently overturned by a unanimous decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, ruling that "the circuit court's findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous" and that the case was not about "seeking to prevent women from obtaining abortions," but instead was about the state's right to "regulate the manner in which abortions are performed in this commonwealth."
Scorsone's civic activities include service with numerous organizations that support the Lexington/Fayette County community and its citizens as well as Kentuckians' interests statewide. He has particularly focused on issues related to health care, gender bias and LGBT initiatives. He was a founder of JustFundKY, a nonprofit education organization, and led the organization's fundraising campaign that created an endowment of more than $1 million to fund anti-discrimination efforts in Kentucky.
Scorsone has been recognized by the Kentucky Human Rights Commission (named to the Civil Rights Hall of Fame), the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice, the American Heart Association, the Bluegrass Chapter of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and was designated "One of Ten Best Legislators" by the Lexington Herald-Leader. He is a recipient of the Charles W. Anderson Medal, named for Kentucky's first African-American legislator to recognize an extraordinary commitment to freedom and justice.