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“It’s not a religious freedom issue,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, counsel for the group Equality Virginia and a former chief deputy attorney general in the state. “You can’t adopt in this state without a judge saying it’s OK. The question should be, ‘Do they as a person have the capacity to provide a loving home to a child in need?’”

The debate turned contentious, with each side accusing the other of distorting the effects of the regulations. In August, the board suspended the process to provide a 30-day public comment period on the matter. The public comment period ended Oct. 11.

The board members — five of whom were appointed by Mr. Kaine — set May 1 as the effective date for the regulation. Board Chairman Aradhana “Bela” Sood voted against it, and two members were not present. More than 2,800 comments were received on the matter.

In March, the issue prompted a flurry of comments on Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, a state-run website on which the public can comment on regulatory changes. More than 1,000 people posted comments in a two-day period.