Faith-based adoption agencies in Virginia will not be required to allow gay individuals to use their services, after the State Board of Social Services on Wednesday rejected proposed changes to the rules governing adoption and foster case agencies.
State law allows gay individuals to adopt or become foster parents of children, but adoption agencies are also allowed to reject their applications based on individuals’ sexual orientation. While agencies are currently prohibited from discriminating based on race, color and national origin, former Gov. Tim Kaine in 2009 had quietly proposed adding sexual orientation, religion, gender, age, political beliefs, disability and family status to the list.
The issue inflamed both pro- and anti-gay groups. Chris Freund, a spokesman for the Family Foundation, applauded the board’s decision, saying it protects the freedoms of faith-based charities like the Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington.
“Most of them would have chosen to close down rather than basically be forced to violate their principles,” Mr. Freund said.
Despite some confusion, the proposed changes wouldn’t have allowed gay couples to adopt. That’s because state law prohibits unmarried couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, from adopting. The restriction stems from the belief that unmarried couples cannot provide as much stability for a child as married couples.
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said anti-gay groups “inflamed” the situation with rumors that the proposed change would have allowed gay couples in Virginia to adopt for the first time. He said the board’s decision equates to discrimination against children because they may still be denied adoption by gay individuals.
“We will take action to assure that no [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] person or couple with a loving home to offer a child is denied the right to parent simply because of who they are,” Mr. Parrish said.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, both Republicans, had urged the board to reject the changes. Mr. Cuccinelli issued a memo last week saying the addition of “sexual orientation” and other protected statuses contradicts state law.
“This proposed language does not comport with applicable state law and public policy,” wrote Mr. Cuccinelli. “Therefore the state board lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language.”
Five of the board’s nine members were appointed by Mr. Kaine, a Democrat.
Late last month, the issue prompted a flurry of comments on Virginia Regulatory Townhall, a state-run website on which the public can comment on regulatory changes. More than 1,000 people posted comments over a two-day period.
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