Column: Family-Friendly Voting

Column: Family-Friendly Voting


According to the Virginia Family Foundation, I am not a very “family-friendly” legislator. On their recently issued scorecard for 2014-2015, I scored 11 of a possible 100 points—up from my score of zero on their previous scorecards. While I consider family a central and critically important part of our society, I obviously differ with the Family Foundation on what they consider family values.

The Family Foundation uses the voting record of legislators on bills that “relate to the principles of life, marriage, parental authority, constitutional government, or religious liberty.” Furthermore, such bills “must substantially benefit or harm the families of Virginia.” The key to arriving at the score is which bills are included or excluded from consideration. You can review the scorecard for all members at In fact if you want to help distribute Report Cards in your church and community, you can request copies. The preface to the Report Card makes clear that “it is distributed for informational purposes only and is not intended to influence the outcome of any election. The Family Foundation Action does not advocate the election or defeat of any candidate and does not endorse any political party” as their nonprofit, tax-exempt status requires. The Report Card does include an analysis of how members of the political party voted: Democrats in the House averaged 20 points; Republicans 92. In the Senate, Democrats averaged 14 while Senate Republicans averaged 92.

What family values does the Report Card reflect? If you support allowing the Governor to go forward with the expansion of Medicaid to provide health insurance for working poor families including their children as I do, you are considered not to be family friendly. Reliance on government programs is believed to break down the family unit. Same-sex couples are not considered a family unit by the Family Foundation. My co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal the marriage amendment that limits marriage to people of different genders took points away from my score. My bill that would have added sexual orientation to non-discrimination in state employment was also considered not to be family friendly as was a bill that I cosponsored to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Family-friendly bills that I opposed included a constitutional amendment that passed to allow the Board of Education to establish charter schools. It must be passed again and be approved by the voters before it becomes part of the Constitution. Another bill I opposed that would have repealed the law requiring an ultrasound before an abortion died in committee.

Missing from the Report Card were many bills that I thought would strengthen families. My bills to raise the minimum wage and to make the earned income tax credit refundable would have put money back into the hands of working people most of whom have children. Bills and budget amendments to expand preschool education would have been solid investments in the future of low-income families. Deciding on “family-friendly” legislation depends on your personal values. The Family Foundation Report Card does not reflect mine.