Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who is running against two gay candidates in an 11-candidate race for Virginia’s 8th congressional District U.S. House seat, expressed strong opposition to same-sex marriage when he ran for governor in 1997.
In a position paper on his campaign website this year for the congressional race, Beyer says, “I believe the institution of marriage should be available to committed, same-sex couples” and adds, “I support full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
But in a 1997 gubernatorial debate against Republican rival Jim Gilmore, which was televised on C-Span, Beyer was asked whether he agreed with then-U.S. Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) that gay couples should be allowed to legally marry.
“I disagree with Sen. Rob that homosexual marriages should be the law in Virginia or in America,” he said. “I value the American family. I do not believe that we should have discrimination on the basis of many different things in Virginia, but I do not think we should elevate a homosexual relationship to the status of a civil marriage,” he said in the debate.
Beyer lost the election to Gilmore, who also opposed same-sex marriage at the time.
“Don’s opinion on the issue has grown since 1997 as has the country’s in general,” said Ann O’Hamlin, a spokesperson for the Don Beyer for Congress campaign.
O’Hamlin said Beyer has always supported LGBT rights in general and noted that he “contributed generously” in 2006 to the campaign in opposition to a Virginia ballot referendum calling for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Although voters passed the referendum, public opinion polls now show that a majority of Virginian’s favor repealing it.