Continued from page 1

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, agreed with the attorney general’s legal reasoning, but issued a nonbinding executive directive stating discrimination would not be tolerated.

More recently, Mr. Cuccinelli’s office told the state Board of Social Services that it lacked the authority to approve regulations prohibiting private agencies from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents based on gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, disability or family status. He said the law permitted protections based only on race, color or national origin.

The board voted 7-2 in April to strip the sexual-orientation protection from the regulations, but last month agreed to reopen the public comment period.

In June, the state Board of Juvenile Justice, against advice from the attorney general’s office, retained a discrimination ban based on sexual orientation at its residential centers. And the Board of Corrections reaffirmed such a nondiscrimination policy last year, despite concerns from Mr. Cuccinelli’s office.

“Lawyers generally are advisers,” Ms. Gastanaga said. “They don’t make policy decisions for policy boards.”

Mr. Cuccinelli insists that his advice, legal opinions, arguments and pursuits are grounded in law, not politics.

“When you sign up to be an attorney general, there are plenty of laws on the books that I don’t like,” he said. “But I signed up to enforce all of them, and that’s part of the deal with that job.”