Virginia Bill Allows Agencies to Discriminate Against Adoptive Parents

Virginia’s General Assembly is close to amending state law to allow any adoption agency, including state-funded agencies, to turn away qualified adoptive parents based on religious and moral beliefs, including sexual orientation. The legislation codifies last year’s State Board of Social Services regulation to allow faith-based organizations to reject prospective parents based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and family status. While the prevailing debate mainly focuses on faith-based convictions to join children with gay parents, the sweeping language leaves room for further discrimination by private agencies on the basis of religious and moral criteria of their choosing.

The Virginia House of Delegates passed the enabling legislation, House Bill 189, last week and the Senate is expected to vote this week. Governor Robert McDonnell has said he plans to sign the anti-gay adoption bill if it reaches his desk. If passed, Virginia will join North Dakota as the only two states having what is termed a “conscience clause” in law. This is in contrast to nine states which explicitly prohibit this kind of discrimination in adoption.Virginia state law already prohibits unmarried couples to adopt, but does allow single people to adopt, regardless of sexual orientation.

There are approximately 1,300 children in Virginia waiting to be adopted and this law further limits the number of safe, loving and permanent caregivers. CWLA has written a letter to the Virginia Senate that describes the harm to the children and Virginia adoption efforts as a result of this law. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) have proposed addressing this at the federal level with the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1770, H.R. 1681).

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