A Democratic congressman from Northern Virginia has pledged to co-sponsor an adoption non-discrimination bill in the U.S. House in response to a GOP effort in Virginia to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective gay parents.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he’ll co-sponsor the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would restrict federal funds for states that allow for discrimination in adoption based on LGBT status.
“I think on the merits it’s a good idea,” Connolly said. “Bringing children into a loving home is the object here, and that’s irrespective of the sexual orientation of the adults in that home. Can they provide a climate of love and protection and nurturing? That’s what children need.”
Connolly’s co-sponsorship of the bill, whose chief sponsor is Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), brings the total number of supporters to 92. The bill has one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). In the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand sponsors the bill, which has nine co-sponsors.
Connolly announces his support for the federal bill as the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature has approved anti-gay legislation that would allow private adoption agencies to discriminate in placements conflicting with their religious or moral beliefs, including on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill is on its way to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who’s indicated he’ll sign the measure.
Connolly said he wanted to co-sponsor the federal adoption anti-discrimination measure “especially in light of this odious, reactionary legislation in Richmond.”
“I want to do everything at the federal level in my power to try to counteract it, and [the Every Child Deserves a Family Act] give us that opportunity,” Connolly said.
Connolly denounced the Virginia Legislature for passing the anti-gay bill — calling it a “big step backward” — as he more broadly criticized state lawmakers for pushing forward with what he called “reactionary bills,” such as a measure requiring women to have an ultrasound before they have an abortion.
“Imagine mandating a medical procedure, even though that it’s not medically indicated for political reasons,” Connolly said. “Frankly, it’s a totalitarian state.”
Connolly said the anti-gay adoption bill is “not far removed from that same phenomenon” and predicted the passage of both bills will “hurt the economic climate” of Virginia.
“Big employers do not like any barriers — discriminatory barriers — to their hiring, to their workforce, to their ability creatively to get their work done,” Connolly said. “It’s an enormous step backwards — very injurious to the economic interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to say nothing of individual liberty.”
If McDonnell signs either piece of legislation, Connolly said the governor would become “radioactive” if he decides to pursue national office — such as running mate to the Republican presidential nominee.
“Good luck in explaining that in the general election to the American people,” Connolly said. “You have compromised the individual rights of every woman in America, and, as the national trend is going in the other direction recognizing long delayed rights of gay and lesbian individuals in America, here’s the Commonwealth of Virginia going in exactly the opposite direction.”
Although Connolly has signed on in support of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, he also predicted the legislation would no see movement in Congress as long as Republicans remain in control of the House.
“Sadly, this reactionary narrative with respect to the rights of gay and lesbian individuals has taken hold among the Republicans nationwide, and so I fully expect that the House Republican leadership will do everything in their power to block this legislation from going to the floor,” Connolly said.
The Virginia Democrat isn’t the only member of the federal delegation who’s a co-sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is also a co-sponsor. The office of the other Virginia Democrat in the U.S. House, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on the bill.
Spokespersons for the two Democrats representing Virginia in the U.S. Senate — Mark Warner and Jim Webb — have said the officials are reviewing the bill. Warner last week denounced the anti-gay adoption legislation as “mean-spirited” and “wrong” during a political event in Richmond.
Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council and among the chief advocates of the legislation, commended Connolly for signing on in support of the bill.
“We are thrilled with Rep. Connolly’s support and the support of a growing number of lawmakers for the the Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” Chrisler said. “They all understand that this issue is about the best interests of the 404,000 children in foster care in our country. The current laws and policies in Virginia and other states are a barrier to kids finding a forever home.”