Capital News Service
The Virginia Board of Social Services has rejected a proposed regulation that would have prohibited faith-based adoption agencies from discriminating against prospective parents based on their sexual orientation.
The board on Wednesday removed that provision from its revised Standards for Licensed Private Child Placing Agencies. The board’s vote was 7-2, although some members said they didn’t have enough time to examine the issue.
A draft of the standards would have barred adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of “discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or family status.”
The final regulations, however, trimmed that language to “race, color or national origin.”
The board acted after receiving more than 1,000 public comments against the broader non-discrimination provision and 33 comments in favor of it.
Although Virginia allows adoption by any married couple or single person, regardless or sexual orientation, many faith-based adoption agencies will not permit gay men or women to adopt.
“Including sexual orientation and family status would have posed conflict with the missions, beliefs and practices of organizations such as ours that profess certain convictions and deeply held religious beliefs,” said Jeff Caruso, director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.
“Including these items could have forced some agencies into a choice of whether to follow their own mission or to adhere to the law. Forcing this choice would have been a violation of the … religious freedom upon which our commonwealth and our country were built.”
People who supported the proposed regulation said the overriding issue wasn’t religious freedom but what’s best for children waiting to be adopted.
“There are many people in the system who cannot find people who will adopt them,” said Guy Kinman, a 93-year-old former Presbyterian minister.
“We have a problem when it comes to wonderful faith-based groups that have to do with adoption. But we also have a problem if, in recognizing their rights as churches, we do not find other families that would adopt the children we’re concerned with.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had urged the Board of Social Services to reject the provision protecting gay and lesbian Virginians against discrimination by adoption agencies.
Cuccinelli issued an opinion last week saying such a provision would be illegal.
“This proposed language does not comport with applicable state law and public policy,” Cuccinelli wrote. “Therefore the state board lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language.”