Virginia Republican Bob Marshall stands by remarks that raise eyebrows

Democrats see an easy victory

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Delegate Robert G. Marshall has said that disabled children can be God’s vengeance against women who have had abortions. He has described incest as sometimes voluntary, and he has questioned the sexuality of a Supreme Court justice who has favored marriage equality.

But unlike W. Todd Akin, whose offhanded reference to “legitimate rape” cost the GOP a winnable Senate seat from Missouri in 2012, Mr. Marshall is unbowed over his history of controversial rhetoric as he seeks a seat in Congress representing Northern Virginia.

“I don’t care. I mean, if I say something in public, I say it in public,” Mr. Marshall said Thursday.

Democrats, who have built dossiers aggregating the delegate’s more outrageous statements from recent years, have been salivating at the prospect of his emergence from a GOP primary field this month seeking to replace retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf.

Unlike Mr. Akin, who appeared to be speaking extemporaneously when he said women’s bodies know how to “shut down” pregnancies in cases of “legitimate rape,” Mr. Marshall’s comments aren’t gaffes.

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Speaking before a pro-life group last year, Mr. Marshall offered a long and detailed argument that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage was unsympathetic to social conservatives.

But it was the statement with which he capped his remarks that stood out.

“For all I know, Kennedy’s a homosexual,” he said. “You can’t be doing some of these things without this kind of conclusion.”

Like many of his other comments, Mr. Marshall stands by it.

“Clearly, some of the people who are making these decisions must be rationalizing their own bad behavior,” he said Thursday.

In 2010, at an event calling for an end to state funding for Planned Parenthood, Mr. Marshall suggested that women who have abortions are more likely to face “vengeance” from “nature” in children with a greater likelihood of having developmental disabilities.

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” Mr. Marshall said.

The comment prompted rebukes from all corners and generated a rare statement of regret from Mr. Marshall, who said his remark was misconstrued.

“No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion,” he said afterward. “I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents.”

Mr. Marshall’s predilection for inflammatory rhetoric isn’t new.

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