Mark Sickles
Va. Legislator, Congressional Hopeful, Comes Out

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com February 22 2014 1:04 PM ET

There are now not one but two openly gay candidates seeking a congressional seat from northern Virginia.

Mark Sickles, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and chair of its Democratic caucus, came out as gay Friday in an opinion column for The Washington Post. Both he and the Virginia legislature’s only other openly gay member, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, are among 11 Democrats vying for the seat in Congress being vacated by fellow Democrat Jim Moran, who is retiring, notes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Sickles’s Post column, titled “A Marriage Ruling That Counts Me In,” cited a federal judge’s recent ruling that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, along with homophobic remarks by members of the state legislature, as his motivation for coming out.

In response to the ruling, Del. Bob Marshall, who authored the Virginia marriage ban and is well known in the state for his outrageously antigay rhetoric, denounced it from the House floor. “He described the ‘LGBT lifestyle’ as a series of ‘life shortening and health compromising behaviors,’” Sickles wrote. “Another delegate said that there was ‘overwhelming science demonstrating that children have better outcomes when they are by a mother and father,’ suggesting that members of the LGBT community are not fit to raise children. It is hard to believe that in 2014, such ignorant and cruel words could be spoken in the chamber of a legislative body as old and venerable as Virginia’s.”

“Hearing such caustic remarks yet again on the House floor, coupled with the overturning of our same-sex marriage ban, has motivated me to state publicly here what many close friends and family have known for decades: I am a proud, gay man,” Sickles continued. He mentioned that there had been innuendo about his being gay as far back as 2005, during his first reelection campaign for the House.

“I have always lived openly with my neighbors, friends and family, lived a full life and never regretted the way I was born,” he added. “But the current moment in Virginia has convinced me that it could be helpful to share this aspect of my life with all of my constituents.”