A member of the House of Representatives was caught on tape suggesting that orphanages would be better than gay adoption.
Audio obtained by the Los Angeles Blade features Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) speaking at an event held by Colts Neck High School in Colts Neck, New Jersey on May 29. The nearly three-and-a-half-month-old audio was only recently made public.
The audio cuts in with Colts Neck High School senior Hannah Valdes telling Smith that she has a gay sister who has expressed interest in adopting a child with her partner. Valdes then asked Smith if, “based on household studies,” her sister would be “less of a legitimate parent” than someone in a heterosexual relationship. Valdes also demanded to know why her sister shouldn’t be able to adopt a child.
Smith replied that “the issue, legally, is moot at this point especially with the Supreme Court decision” and says her sister is “free to adopt.” This is an inaccurate statement of the law.
Though gay marriage was legalized throughout the country in 2015 due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the issue of same-sex partners adopting children is still heavily litigated. To wit, many Christian and conservative organizations have pushed Republican state lawmakers in various GOP-controlled states to adopt laws which allow religious institutions receiving taxpayer funds to refuse placing children with LGBTQ couples based on religious objections. Similar efforts have even had some success in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Valdes was unhappy with Smith’s reply and pressed the congressman on why he personally thinks her sister shouldn’t be able to adopt a child.
“There are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child … the waiting periods are extremely long,” Smith replied.
Another student then interjected and asked what would make other people more suited to parenthood than Valdes’ gay sister. Smith began to answer saying, “Well, you know, in my opinion a child needs every possibility of,” before cutting himself off and saying, “You know, somebody mentioned orphanages before. I mean, orphanages are still a possibility for some kids, umm ….”
At this point, a student indignantly asked, “You’d rather have kids in an orphanage than with–” just before the audio drops off.
In comments to The Blade, Valdes said Smith made it clear that what’s left off the tape doesn’t sound any better on the equality front for the New Jersey congressman. She said the original question asked had to do with Smith’s 1999 vote to ban gay adoptions in the District of Columbia and whether he would vote that way today:
Rep. Smith responded by saying that he does not approve of gay adoption because gay households are not healthy environments for children to grow up in. He then stated that ‘numerous household studies’ show that children that have heterosexual parents have better lives than children that have homosexual parents.
Valdes also said that once the room turned against Smith over his anti-LGBTQ stance, the discussion was quickly cut short.
“After I asked my question and challenged him, an administrator cut in to change the topic,” she said. “Rep. Smith started to discuss a recent project he was working on, but the auditorium was already filled with tension, and most of the audience was already talking about what Rep. Smith had just said. More students began to raise their hands, and the administration quickly realized that their students would likely be asking more questions regarding LGBT rights. Instead of taking further questions, the assembly was promptly ended and all of us were sent back to class.”
Law&Crime reached out to Smith’s office for comment, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images]