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In Virginia, only single individuals and married couples, as defined by the commonwealth’s constitution, can receive a child for purposes of adoption, said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. The proposed DSS policy “tramples on religious freedom” and “goes far beyond any policy in the Virginia Code.”

The DSS policy was initiated at the end of the administration of Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, but has been extended several times by McDonnell administration officials, much to the surprise of Mr. Marshall.

“This was going through — it’s a sleeper measure,” said the Manassas-area lawmaker. He recently wrote to Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II with questions about the DSS’s authority to make such changes. “I want them to answer me about why they think this, basically, is in the public interest,” Mr. Marshall said.