For the better part of four decades, one of the most common smears we’ve heard against gays and lesbians is “They don’t reproduce, they recruit!” That’s one of many reasons why the thought of letting otherwise capable LGBT couples adopt kids caused people to clutch their pearls.
Obergefell v. Hodges effectively dismantled the last remaining legal barriers that prevent LGBT couples from adopting. But some people still have no problem keeping kids out of the welcoming arms of nurturing families just because they’re same-sex couples. We learned just how deep this mentality still runs when a Republican congressman from New Jersey was caught on tape suggesting that kids would be better off in orphanages than in the home of a LGBT couple.
Chris Smith has represented New Jersey’s 4th congressional district since 1981, when he backed into the set as a result of the longtime Democratic incumbent being ensnared in Abscam. However, he has only faced one tough contest since then. This is partly because his district has shed the heavily Democratic state capital, Trenton, in favor of more Republican-leaning exurban territory to the east.
The 2018 race doesn’t look to be much different. Even though the GOP is in danger of losing at least two and possibly four seats in New Jersey, Smith appears to be cruising to a 20th term. But one can hope that changes after the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest gay newspaper, obtained audio from a forum Smith held in May with students at Colts Neck High School in Colts Neck, in the district’s eastern portion.
Even after the Obergefell decision, Smith remains unalterably opposed to allowing LGBT couples to adopt. That didn’t sit well with Colts Neck High School senior Hannah Valdes, whose sister is lesbian and wants to have a child someday. Valdes asked Smith why her sister would be “less of a legitimate parent” than a heterosexual couple.
Smith hedged, saying that the Supreme Court had settled the matter and that her sister was now “free to adopt.” That wasn’t enough for Valdes, who recalled Smith supported a 1999 amendment that would have banned LGBT couples in the district from adopting.
Smith’s reasoning, according to Valdes, was that “numerous household studies” showed kids growing up in straight households fare better than kids in LGBT households. Never mind that Cornell University found no fewer than 75 studies showing kids in same-sex households fare the same as kids in straight households.
When Valdes pressed Smith on the issue, Smith claimed that “many others” were waiting to adopt, and “the waiting periods are extremely long.” Another student asked the obvious question–why were “more legitimate” than Valdes’ sister? Smith replied, “In my opinion a child needs every possibility of …” The message was obvious–he thought every child needed parents of the opposite sex.
At that point, Smith suggested that “orphanages are still a possibility” if no suitable parents can be found. Needless to say, another student was appalled. She couldn’t believe her congressman had just suggested kids would be better off in orphanages than in a same-sex home.
Valdes later told the Blade that after she called Smith out, an administrator tried to change the subject. However, when it became apparent that the students on hand weren’t going to let Smith get away with his blatant homophobia, administrators cut the assembly short and sent everyone back to class.
Democratic congressman Frank Pallone, who represents a neighboring district to the northeast, let Smith have it on Twitter.
So did Smith’s Democratic opponent, naval veteran and businessman Josh Welle.
Chris Smith’s out-of-touch views might have flown in 1980 when he was elected, but his time has passed. n 2018, in Central Jersey, it is unacceptable to imply a child would be better off in an orphanage than with a loving LGBTQ family. As a veteran, I fought on the front lines alongside men and women who gave their lives to protect and defend the civil liberties that our Constitution ensures for everyone, not just a few. Chris Smith takes us backwards on inclusion and basic human rights for all.
Welle isn’t letting this go. On Wednesday, he and his supporters picketed Smith’s office and called on him to “answer for his anti-equality agenda.”
Smith’s district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+8, and Donald Trump won it 56-41 over Hillary Clinton in 2016. In other words, districts like this one shouldn’t even be on the board.
But in wave elections, you often see seats more or less given away. The brand of Republicanism in most of New Jersey is much more moderate than is the case in the rest of the country. So you have to wonder–are voters in this district keen on their congressman suggesting that it would be better to leave kids in orphanages than let LGBT couples adopt them?
That kind of talk may play well in the south, but will it play well in central Jersey? Hopefully the answer is a very loud no.
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