House

CORRECTED: GOP lawmaker taken out of context in remarks on gay adoption

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) was taken out of context in Wednesday reports that he suggested orphanages are better for children than gay adoption. 

Smith, a longtime congressman whose views on LGBTQ rights have come under fire in the past, mentioned orphanages in response to a question about gay adoption from a students at Colts Neck High School in May, as first reported by the Washington Blade on Wednesday under the headline "GOP lawmaker caught on tape: Orphanages better than gay adoption."

The Blade said it "stands behind its reporting." However, the audio clip that was circulated throughout the day on Wednesday was taken out of context. 

The full audio tape, released by Smith's campaign, reveals that Smith at another point said he does not believe orphanages are better than gay adoption. 

Smith replied "lord, no" when a constituent asked if he believes orphanages are a viable alternative.

"And on adoption, adoption is all about the best interests of the child," Smith said. "Now there are people who feel the best interest of the child is for gay couples to adopt. I really believe that the best interests, you find a home where they are more likely - the home study that is done takes in all kinds of factors." 

"I would vote the same way, frankly, as I did then," Smith said, referring to his 1999 vote against gay adoption. 

After speaking about his views on adoption, the student asked, "So you would say that foster care and orphanages would be in the better interest of the child?" 

"No," he replied. "Lord, no. We have waiting periods for families to adopt children, often by years, but certainly long waiting periods of couples who'd love to adopt, but the child is simply not available." 

Smith added that he does not support shutting down adoption centers that refuse to allow gay couples to adopt. 

At another point, high school senior Hannah Valdes says she has an older gay sister who wants to adopt a child with her partner.

"I just wanted to know if you think that, based on household studies, she would be less of a legitimate parent and why she couldn't adopt a child?" Valdes asks.

"The the issue, legally, is moot at this point especially with the Supreme Court decision," Smith replies, an apparent reference to the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage. "She's free to adopt." 

"Right, but why do you think she shouldn't be able to adopt a child?" Valdes asks.

The New Jersey Republican stumbles on his words before saying, "There are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child ... the waiting periods are extremely long."

When pressed by a different constituent, Smith says, "In my opinion, a child needs every possibility of ..." then trails off. 

"Somebody mentioned orphanages before," he says. "I mean, orphanages are still a possibility for some kids."

A moderator then interjects, asking Smith to speak about the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). 

Smith on Wednesday decried the "false representation" of his views by his Democratic opponent and advocates who have been sharing the Blade's article throughout the day. 

"Anybody can twist your words and make false representations when they splice up a tape," Smith said. "It is despicable that someone thought they could score political points by distorting the truth and raising false questions about my record and the full range of topics discussed at the assembly." 

The Blade's editor Kevin Naff in a statement to The Hill said the outlet "stands behind its reporting."

Naff said students came away from the assembly with the "clear impression that Smith opposes adoption rights for gay couples and thinks orphanages are a better option for children." Naff also said "we know what he means" when Smith brought up orphanages in answering "a direct question about adoption rights for same-sex couples."

"It is also telling that Smith's campaign has declined to respond to Blade requests for comment, yet reached out to other mainstream outlets directly to dispute our reporting," he added. "To reach out to us would mean acknowledging the existence of the LGBT media, something we know Smith won't do."

LGBTQ advocacy groups have previously condemned Smith for his views on gay rights, including his 2015 comment that he does "not construe homosexual rights as human rights." 

Smith has previously voted against gay adoption, same-sex marriage and hate crimes protections legislation, the Blade reported. 

He is considered one of the safest New Jersey Republicans running for reelection this fall. The Cook Political Report rates his 4th District as "solidly Republican" ahead of a November face-off with Democrat Josh Welle.

Updated Sept. 13 at 3:30 p.m. Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Smith's comments based on the Blade's report.

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