Lone Voice in Red State Legislature Speaks Out

Just came across this profile in the Richmond Times Dispatch from last month of Del. Adam P. Ebbin, right, the only openly gay member of the Virginia legislature.

In his first term, the legislature has dealt with a slew of anti-gay measures coming from all fronts:

The House Transportation Committee approved a license plate that would have read “Traditional Marriage.” The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee deliberated a proposal that initially sought to ban the adoption of children by homosexuals. The House Education Committee heard a bill that attempted to bar “gay-straight alliance” groups in public schools.

“It’s kind of unusual,” said Ebbin, who is completing his freshman term as the legislature’s first openly gay member. “But by the same token, if we’re going to have all this stuff, I’d rather be here.”

While those bills ultimately failed, another measure that generated emotional debate overwhelmingly passed both the House and the state Senate: a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex unions by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Ebbin, 41, is described as soft-spoken and not given to theatrics, but the onslaught of hate bills into the legislature has forced him to speak out.

His first floor speech came two weeks into that session when he delivered a passionate plea against a resolution urging Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would essentially outlaw gay marriage. Last year, the assembly banned same-sex civil unions. This year he spoke poignantly against the state marriage amendment and the adoption ban.

…Ebbin doesn’t rise to speak often on the House floor, but when he does, colleagues listen. “I think I’ve made my position pretty clear and I’m happy to have other people, other progressives, take on the debate,” he said.

“If there’s a bill about something that you know about, or you think is wrong and you think you can enlighten people, it’s natural,” he continued, to offer your insights. People often ask Ebbin how he tolerates what some perceive as an atmosphere of animosity.

“We’re all courteous to each other and collegial to an extent,” he explained during a recent interview in his fifth-floor office at the General Assembly Building. “Sometimes, though, the more you hear certain arguments, it is difficult to understand where people are coming from when you hear the more outlandish and vitriolic statements.”

The profile is lengthy and interesting. Read it all…


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