Tuesday, January 25, 2005

RICHMOND — Lawmakers will consider a bill that would forbid homosexuals from adopting children.

Delegate Richard H. Black has proposed a bill that would add new criteria for adoption reports filed with the circuit court. The Loudoun County Republican’s bill amends the state’s adoption law by adding a phrase that states: “No person under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”

Current law permits any person or married couple residing in the state to petition to adopt.

Herb Lux, Mr. Black’s legislative assistant, said the measure would require investigators during the screening process to ask an adoption candidate whether he or she is a homosexual.

Investigators also check out, among other things, an adoption candidate’s health, whether he or she has a criminal record and whether he or she is fit to be a parent.

The bill is pending in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee.

Equality Virginia, the state’s primary homosexual rights group, opposes Mr. Black’s bill.

“Our primary concern is that it would keep hundreds if not thousands of adoptable children from good homes,” said Dyana Mason, the group’s executive director. “It’s a disingenuous argument to make that two loving people can’t commit to raising a healthy child. That’s just wrong.”

Miss Mason also said studies show that “children being raised in homes with gay parents are turning out just fine, thank you very much.”

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican who is a co-patron of the bill, said the proposed restriction is necessary.

“The order of nature strongly suggests a father and mother are necessary for proper development of a child and that means a heterosexual relationship,” he said.

On its Web site, Equality Virginia claims that the state courts have discriminated against homosexual parents in the past by ruling that because the parent was a homosexual, it was not in the child’s best interests for the parent to have custody.

A measure to write a ban on gay “marriage” into Virginia’s Constitution advanced easily yesterday to the full Senate despite the passionate, often poignant appeals by opponents.

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee endorsed the legislation on an 11-3 vote, rejecting opponents’ arguments that the constitutional amendment could create legal headaches in Virginia.

The panel also voted 9-5 to kill another proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Virginia governors to serve two consecutive terms.

Sen. Stephen D. Newman, Lynchburg Republican, said his resolution to define marriage in the state constitution as the union of a man and woman is a defensive maneuver after courts in other states recognized homosexual “marriage.”

Voters in 11 states last year approved constitutional amendments similar to Mr. Newman’s.

“I do not believe that we are here because those individuals who want to defend marriage brought us here. We are here because there is another element in America today that has made it very clear that going after the current definition of marriage and changing that definition of marriage is a stated goal,” Mr. Newman said.

Four measures similar to Mr. Newman’s are pending in the House and could be taken up by the House Privileges and Elections Committee by the end of this week.

Many of Virginia’s “official” emblems evoke images of the state’s beauty: the official state flower, the dogwood; the state bird, the cardinal; and even the state insect, the tiger swallowtail butterfly.

Delegate Jackie T. Stump, Buchanan Democrat, wants to add to the list Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus, more commonly known as the Virginia big-eared bat.

A House committee gave preliminary approval yesterday to Mr. Stump’s bill designating the species as the official state bat.

Mr. Stump told the General Laws Committee that the goal is to educate people about Virginia’s caves and the positive role played by the bats that inhabit them. He said one bat can devour 600 mosquitoes per hour, helping prevent the spread of West Nile virus.

The idea originated with Claire Ward, a member of the Virginia Cave Board. She told the committee that the Virginia big-eared bat, found in only a few caves in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina, is on the federal endangered species list.

A lobbying organization for college-age Virginians is urging the General Assembly to pass legislation targeting the high price of textbooks at campus bookstores.

“As any student or parent with a child in college knows, the price of textbooks has gotten out of control,” Virginia Tech student body President Sumeet Bagai, representing Virginia21, said at a press conference Monday.

He said the price of college textbooks and supplies averages $817 per semester, a 238 percent increase over the past decade. Representatives of textbook publishers and college bookstores disputed Virginia21’s numbers, saying the average is closer to $400 per semester.

Mr. Bagai said students are hit with “a serious case of sticker shock” when they buy their required textbooks. Students typically can’t find out which books they will need until the first day of classes, making comparison shopping impossible, he said.

Virginia21 released a list of 23 textbooks and their prices at campus bookstores and from Internet sources. The online prices were 5 percent to 46 percent cheaper, with an average savings of 32 percent.

Delegate Glenn Oder, Newport News Republican, is sponsoring legislation that would require campus bookstores to make the list of required textbooks available to students as soon as they receive it.

The bill also prohibits publishers from offering kickbacks to professors for assigning certain books to their students. Mr. Oder and Virginia21 representatives said this is a necessary protection even though kickbacks have not been a problem in Virginia.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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