Days out from the general election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, with Democrat Jon Ossoff leading in the polls, Republican candidate Karen Handel has re-affirmed perhaps her most controversial stance: a staunch opposition to same-sex adoption.
On Thursday, Handel told a reporter that in her view, allowing same-sex couples to adopt is not in “the best interest of the child.” A mother then approached Handel and explained to her that, as the mother of a gay daughter, she was “torn”: She has a “conservative nature,” but she wants her daughter to be “able to adopt a kid.” Handel responded bluntly: “I have to be honest, my faith calls me to a different place on that issue.”
Handel notoriously favored outlawing same-sex adoption during her unsuccessful run for Georgia governor in 2010. She also opposed marriage, civil unions, and even domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. At the time, Handel boasted that she had “voted no on domestic partner benefits” as the chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
Following April’s primary, some observers expected Handel to moderate her anti-LGBTQ positions to appeal to centrist voters in a district not known for hardline social conservatism. But Handel has instead clung to her old platform, allowing Ossoff to draw a stark contrast with his opponent. The Democrat has presented himself as a staunch ally of the LGBTQ community; at the Atlanta Equality March, he told supporters:
You will be able to count on me to stand up for you every day. I will never shy away from standing with the LGBT community publicly, forcefully, with everything I’ve got. … There can be no compromise on civil rights; there can be no compromise on human rights.
Handel responded bluntly: “I have to be honest, my faith calls me to a different place on that issue.” Yeah, see, it's not about YOUR faith, lady. It's about your ability to be a public servant to ALL the public. Throughout her campaign, Handel has sought to portray the issue of same-sex adoption as settled law. The Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision did protect other “rights and responsibilities intertwined with marriage” for same-sex couples, including adoption. But states have sought to avoid this constitutional command by allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples. In fact, on the same day that Handel expressed her continued opposition to same-sex adoption, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill allowing taxpayer-funded agencies to turn away LGBTQ adopters.
Dozens of studies have confirmed that the children of same-sex couples fare no worse than other children.
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate.
He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.