Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Conservatives plan to make a campaign issue of the Virginia Housing and Development Authority’s decision last week to allow unmarried couples, including homosexuals, to apply for low-interest home mortgages.

The decision, which scrapped the state’s long-held “family rule” in mortgage lending, takes effect tomorrow.

“Conservative voters in Virginia are going to want to know who the lawmakers are that protect and promote marriage,” said Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs for the Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes traditional values. “We believe this will be an important issue.”

“This is the sort of thing that drives people nuts,” said Delegate Richard H. Black, Sterling Republican.

Mr. Black said many voters will be angered by the change and will let lawmakers know when all 140 General Assembly seats are on the ballot in November.

Officials at Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VDHA) voted unanimously July 25 to abolish the rule that required loan applicants be related by blood, marriage or adoption or by legal custodial relationship. Before the vote, VHDA had been the only state housing-finance agency in the country that applied the family rule.

The change, which was supported by Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, is expected to allow many individuals who live together but are unmarried — including homosexuals, unrelated seniors, disabled people and single parents — to pool resources and qualify for low-interest home loans through VHDA.

Mrs. Cobb said her group is developing a coordinated campaign for November’s elections and next year’s General Assembly session to return VHDA to the family rule. She said a timetable would be available next month, but declined to offer specifics.

“Family rule is one of the many ways the commonwealth has promoted marriage over other transitory relationships,” said Mrs. Cobb. “To depart from that is a major policy shift.”

Mr. Warner, who appointed seven of the 11 VHDA board members, said the change “has nothing to do with the definition of families.”

“It brings Virginia in line with the rest of the country,” he said, adding that the change of policy had strong bipartisan support.

A VHDA fact sheet states: “[The] definition of ‘family’ does not change. Eliminating the [family rule] regulation would not alter the definition of ‘family’ in VHDA regulations, and is not intended to set statewide policy on what a family or household should be. It simply allows unrelated persons to jointly obtain a loan.”

VHDA board member Jay Fisette said the housing agency received about 1,000 comments while it was reviewing the policy, and nearly 80 percent supported the change.

“We had one woman come in and tell us the story of how she had to explain to her son why she had two wedding rings. She and her fiance wanted to buy a house. When they went to get the loan, they were told they had to be married before they were approved, so they went and got married the next day. And had the real wedding five days later,” said Mr. Fisette, the board’s only openly homosexual member.

Mr. Black said he plans to introduce legislation during the next General Assembly session to revive the family rule.

“[Virginia] is now spending $90 million to subsidize sodomy and adultery,” said Mr. Black, referring to bonds the state has purchased to fund the VHDA. “I just don’t understand why we are taking money away [from worthwhile programs] and supporting a radical homosexual agenda.”

Mr. Fisette said the decision makes good business sense.

“This is an agenda for affordable housing, for mortgage lenders and for home builders. Anyone who is arguing otherwise is really only using rhetoric,” he said.

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