March 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage
Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I'm glad Don Beyer has changed his position, but his earlier statements on "homosexual relationships" were harsh. Even in those early days of the same-sex marriage conversation, there were plenty of committed gay and lesbian couples in Virginia. We had to endure these hurtful suggestions that we were somehow anti-family, even from Democrats. This article reminds me how affirmed I felt by the progressive position taken by Chuck Robb.

  • Many of our most ardent supporters today held that same position back in 1997. I am glad he has evolved and recognizes he was wrong. I think the Democratic Primary for the Virgiinia Congressional seat in the 8th will not be won or lost on the Gay marriage issue but in the case of this seat if all the other issues are equal and they seem to be it would be good to have another Gay congressperson and I think Adam Ebbin fits that bill well.

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