VIRGINIA’S SOCIAL SERVICES BOARD voted in April to reject proposed regulations that would have prohibited adoption agencies from discriminating against prospective parents because they’re gay.
The state’s Board of Social Services voted 7–2 to strip that protection from proposed regulations. The vote came despite objections from some board members who said they didn’t have enough time to examine the issue after the state Department of Social Services removed the provision late last week under the advice of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli advised the board last week that it did not have the authority to prohibit private—often faith-based—agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation because state and federal laws do not offer such protections.
The provision was added to proposed regulations in 2009 by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s administration, but only
recently became an issue when conservative legislators and organizations said they feared it would allow same-sex couples
Virginia allows adoption by married couples and singles, regardless of sexual orientation, but it does not allow unmarried couples to adopt.
Rob Keeling brought his six-year-old son to the meeting. Keeling, who is gay, adopted the boy from Guatemala in 2005.
“I did not hear anybody…talk about the best interest of the children,” he told the board before the vote. “I heard them talk about their own religious beliefs.
“Children don’t come into the world wanting homes that have specific religious beliefs,” he continued. “I think they come into the world wanting love—and I know that I have that to offer.”
Keeling said 3,350 same-sex couples in Virginia are raising more than 6,000 children, based on data from the Family Equality Council.
Department officials said there are 1,300 children in foster care statewide who are eligible to be adopted. “We have more than enough homes to go around,” he said. “We have red tape and prejudice in the way.”
Representatives from Baptist and Catholic organizations and from several faith-based adoption services urged the board to strip the provision, because requiring them to adopt to gay individuals goes against their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, said including the prohibition would have forced faith-based organizations to decide whether to adhere to their missions and beliefs or obey the law.
“Faith-based agencies play a vital role in the fabric of our commonwealth, and their right to carry out their mission in the services they provide must be respected and preserved,” Caruso said.
Department officials could not say how many of the state’s 81 licensed child placement agencies were faith-based. Supporters said most are, and that some may decide to quit providing the service rather than allow gays to adopt. —Dena Potter, Associated Press