- The Magazine
A Republican congressman who officiated a wedding for a same-sex couple escaped punishment after his colleagues tried — and failed — to censure him.
House Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia earlier this month presided over the wedding of Anthony LeCounte and Alex Pisciarino — both Republicans and friends of Riggleman — in Crozet, VA.
But a Republican committee in his Virginia district attempted to censure him because he had neglected to uphold the party’s official opposition to same-sex marriage.
Riggleman was elected to Congress in 2018 as a “liberty Republican,” a conservative Republican with a libertarian streak.
Part of that streak included supporting the rights of same-sex couples to get married.
“My real belief is that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, but if it is, everybody has to be treated equally before the law,” Riggleman told the Washington Post after the wedding. “And that is part of our Republican creed. And it also comes down to love is love. I’m happy to join two people together who obviously love each other.”
“A clear way to show his support for LGBT Virginians would be to support the Equality Act,” James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the Post.
But even officiating a same-sex wedding was too much for Riggleman’s Republican colleagues in Virginia, it seems.
Last week, the Cumberland County Republican Committee held a closed session to debate whether they should officially censure Riggleman for participating in the wedding.
“I move that the committee censure Denver Riggleman for failing to uphold the Republican Party platform in that it states ‘marriage is between one man and one woman,’” the motion read, according to The Roanoke Times.
With two dozen committee members in appearance, only four ultimately supported the motion after committee chair Melvin Adams said it was out of order.
Riggleman’s political director, Kurt Lofquist, issued a statement saying the congressman has “full confidence in the committee and applauds their decision to continue to make the Republican Party an inclusive party of liberty and freedom for everyone.”
However, that wasn’t the end of the affair. On Monday, the committee unanimously passed a motion of no confidence against Riggleman for participating in the wedding.
Diana Shores, who was also involved in the censure motion, told NBC News that the motion of no confidence was needed because Riggleman had “contradicted his promises to represent the district” by officiating the wedding.
“Mr. Riggleman, who claims to want government out of marriage, acted as an elected official to perform a marriage,” she said. “Then, he made it clear in the communications that followed to the leadership of the district that he didn’t care what we thought about the actions. Each district committee can decide if they have further confidence in Congressman Riggleman representing their values. As for me, he doesn’t represent mine.”
John Findlay, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, told NBC News that the “governing board of the state GOP has not taken any action whatsoever on this matter.”
He added that the party would not be commenting “until we are actually certain the resolution was properly passed.”
A spokesman for the party added that the original censure vote was also “not authorized by our leadership in any way shape or form.”
In a statement, Riggleman’s spokesperson Joe Chelak defended his participating in the wedding, but declined to comment on the committee’s actions.
“The Congressman was happy to officiate their wedding and he is proud of these two young people who found their life partner,” Chelak said. “Congressman Riggleman has full confidence in the district committee.”
The GOP has opposed same-sex marriage in its party platform since 1992, but in 2016 adopted what was widely considered “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”
Branded “extreme” and “frightening,” the platform states that, “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society.”
It condemned the Supreme Court’s legitimacy in the Obergefell case, calling it a “lawless ruling” and stating that “five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate Constitutional authority,” ignoring that five of the nine justices on the bench were nominated by Republican presidents.
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