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NJ Congressman's Remarks About Gay Adoption Spark Controversy

Saturday Sep 15, 2018
NJ Congressman Chris Smith
NJ Congressman Chris Smith  

A recording published by an LGBTQ publication appears to suggest that New Jersey Republican representative Chris Smith believes children in need of adoption would fare better in orphanages than in families headed by same-sex parents, Politico reports. Smith's campaign has pushed back, saying that the recording has been edited in a dishonest way, making the congressman's remarks seem other than they actually were.

Smith spoke for an hour with students at Colts Neck High School on May 29, Politico reports. The edited version of the recording published by the Washington Blade features Smith responding to questions posed by a student with a lesbian sister. Smith tells the student that her sister would be able to adopt under the law, but when the student pursues the question he tells her that "there are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child" with the result that prospective adoptive parents who are gay or lesbian might have to face "waiting periods" that are "extremely long."

Another student then interjects to ask why other prospective parents are "more legitimate" when it comes to adoptions than same-sex couples would be.

"In my opinion, a child needs every possibility of - " Smith begins to answer, then pauses before resuming with, "You know, you mentioned - somebody mentioned orphanages before. I mean, orphanages are still a possibility for some kids."

Democratic opponent Josh Welle pounced, reported NJ.com. Welle's campaign denounced Smith for having, a Facebook post from the Welles campaign alleged, "implied that orphanages would be better for children than gay adoption."

Smith's campaign responded to the Washington Blade's posting of the snippet with the full recording of the congressman's remarks. In that version, which runs for an hour, Smith describes himself as "very aggressively pro-adoption" and responds with "No. Lord, no," when asked if he would prefer to see children left in orphanages rather than placed with same-sex adoptive parents.

Smith seemed to blame Welle for the edited snippet, calling the excerpt "unethical" and saying of Welle, "He did not tell the truth."

But in that same full recording, Smith can also be heard talking about a vote he cast in 1999 on a proposal to make it harder for unmarried people adopt in Washington, D.C. - a measure that would have disproportionately affected same-sex couples at the time. Smith acknowledges that "there are people who feel that the best interests of the child is for gay couples to adopt," but then goes on to say that he would vote the same way again. He also references Catholic groups that have stopped handling adoptions rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws and place children with same-sex couples.

NJ.com notes, however, that Smith qualified those remarks by observing that the Supreme Court's 2015 affirmation of marriage equality makes "moot" the issue of making it harder for unmarried couples to adopt when it comes to equality of access for same-sex families.

Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff defended the audio clip, telling the press, "When Rep. Smith is asked a direct question about adoption rights for same-sex couples and he pivots to talk about orphanages, we know what he means."

Smith, who was first elected to Congress in 1980, is New Jersey's longest-serving representative. He was generally considered safe from challengers in the upcoming midterm election, but now, media sources speculate, that might have changed.



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