Mike McWherter’s campaign is defending the Democratic gubernatorial candidate against criticism for saying he favors a state law banning gay adoption.
“The fact of the matter is, what he said is where he is on this issue,” said campaign spokesman Mike Kopp after McWherter made his remarks to a blogger in an interview. “No one in the campaign is going to sit here and try to nuance it. He was asked point blank the question, and he gave an honest, heartfelt answer about where he is on the issue.”
Ward Cammack, another Democratic candidate in the 2010 race, slammed McWherter for playing politics with children.
“I'm for gay adoption. That's easy for me,” Cammack said. “Mike McWherter is playing politics with this issue. Just saying carte blanche that gay people should not be able to adopt is the wrong messsage. It's the wrong thing to say and you can't say something like that lightly.
“It's nothing for any politician or anybody running for office to play with for the sake of a few votes, he added. “There are plenty of gay couples who would make more responsible parents than heterosexual couples.”
Another Democratic candidate, former House Majority leader Kim McMillan, long has opposed making it illegal for gay people to adopt children.
“I haven't seen what Mike McWherter said so I'm not going to offer any opinion about what he said ‘yay or nay’,” she said. “I stated my opposition to that bill [the ban on gay adoption] when I was in the legislature and I continue to oppose it. I do not believe those types of bans actually favor the best interest of the child. That ought to be the paramount concern for all of us, what is in the best interest of children in Tennessee.
“I'm an adopted individual myself,” she added. “I had firsthand knowledge of the importance of a stable, loving family for a child growing up in life. I had that. I was blessed with that, and I think the children of Tennessee deserve the same.”
Banning gay adoption is one of the top priorities for social conservatives every legislative session, but it has few Democratic supporters and the legislation always has died in committee.
Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, which lobbies on behalf of gays in the legislature, said he hopes McWherter researches the issue, then changes his position.
To start denying homes with gay couples to unwanted children would cost Tennessee nearly $3 million, the price of keeping these kids languishing in state custody, according to an analysis by legislative staff.
“If you don't like gay people, that's one thing, but everybody likes money, so you can look at it that way,” Sanders said. “I would hope that his staff would start prepping him on those kinds of things.”
Kopp admitted that he and the campaign “haven't dived into the issue from a policy standpoint,” but he said McWherter wouldn’t push for a gay adoption ban if he’s elected governor.
“This is not in any way part of his political agenda,” said Kopp.