Story to Watch: VA Board Allows Adoption Agencies to Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation, Other Factors

Contrary to the will of the majority of Virginians, on Wednesday the Virginia Board of Social Services, in a vote of 5-1, approved final regulations that will allow state-licensed adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective adoptive and foster parents based on their sexual orientation.  To be more specific, the regulations will effectively allow state-licensed adoption agencies to deny gay and lesbian couples from adopting a child in need of a loving home.

The new regulations, which take effect May 1, 2012, will also allow adoption agencies to deny services to prospective parents on the basis of age, gender, disability, religion, political belief and family status.  Only discrimination based on race, national origin and ethnicity will be prohibited.

This unfortunate news comes two months after the close of a 30-day public comment period, during which time 60% of Virginia adults told the Virginia Board of Social Services that they were in favor of regulations that would "protect prospective parents based on race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, and family status."

The majority of the nearly 3,000 comments received during the public comment period built on the results of a poll conducted in May 2011 by The Washington Post.  That poll found that 55% of Virginia adults think it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to adopt a child in the state.

To be clear, the Virginia Board of Social Services is out of touch with - and not listening to - the majority of Virginia adults who feel that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples are just as fit to be parents as anyone else.

From Think Progress:

"Let’s be absolutely clear what this means. This means that a loving and generous potential parent could be denied the ability to adopt because they are gay. Or because they are Jewish. Or because they are a woman. Or because they are divorced. Or because they are in a wheelchair."

Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 Virginia children live in foster care.

"Equality Virginia believes that [the] best interests of the child should be the sole basis for child placement decisions," said Claire Guthrie Gustanaga, Equality Virginia's legislative counsel.  "Discrimination based on any of the factors stripped from the final rules has no place in the decision by the state or its licensed agencies whether to provide adoption or foster care services to children or to prospective loving parents."

As the media reports on Wednesday's vote, it is imperative that they communicate what the majority of Virginia adults have expressed time and time again: that it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to adopt a child in the state and that enhanced protections against discrimination are needed in order to ensure that otherwise capable prospective parents are able to provide loving homes for the children who need them.  If you should come across news coverage that omits the opinion on adoption held by the majority of Virginians, please take a moment to fill out an incident report.