Gay-rights advocates are putting on a full-court press to influence the outcome of proposed regulations governing child placement for adoption or foster care, reports The Pilot from VA, USA.
At issue is a draft policy that would prohibit state-licensed agencies, including faith-based groups, from using sexual orientation as a basis for denying a child’s placement or an individual’s application to serve as a foster or adoptive parent.
Gay-rights groups held news conferences in Northern Virginia and the State Capitol on Wednesday to urge Gov. Bob McDonnell "to put Virginia’s children first" by barring such practices.
"With nearly 6,000 children and youth in Virginia’s foster care system, and over 1,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted into loving forever homes, the time for politics is over," said Joe Solmonese, president of the group Human Rights Campaign. "The law is failing these children."
State law permits individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, to adopt if they meet qualifying criteria, officials said. Unmarried couples, gay or straight, aren’t allowed to jointly adopt – that would not change under the proposed regulation.
The proposal dates to the tenure of then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, but it attracted attention only recently when Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, raised concerns about it.
As Marshall sees it, allowing the regulatory change would amount to forcing private and church-run agencies that view homosexuality as sinful to place children with gay people for adoption or foster care. He has urged like-minded people to voice their opposition.
In addition to sexual orientation, the proposed regulation would add gender, age, religion, political beliefs, disability and family status as protected classes.
Discrimination based on race and national origin are already banned, a standard state officials said is consistent with federal law.
State regulations should stick to that format, according to an April 12 memo from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office, which also said the State Board of Social Services lacks the authority to adopt the proposed language.
That’s a reversal of the guidance the office issued in late 2009, prior to Cuccinelli’s term.
The measure could come up for consideration by the board as early as next week. If it survives, it faces another round of review by high-level state officials, including the governor.
The Virginia Catholic Conference is among the groups that oppose the change, which Executive Director Jeff Caruso said would force some agencies to choose "whether to follow their own mission or to adhere to the law."
Also opposed to the change is the Family Foundation of Virginia, which has asked McDonnell to resist it.
Earlier this week, McDonnell said he considers the current regulations "proper."
"Adding additional categories regarding anything from orientation to political parties… I don’t really think are necessary," he told reporters Tuesday.
Gay-rights groups disagree.
Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said licensed child placement agencies working on behalf of the state should afford citizens equal protection under the law.
The proposed regulations, he added, wouldn’t change current adoption policy or standards used to determine whether a person is capable of serving the best interests of a child.