The unconscionable attack on civil rights continues this year. Not satisfied with their full frontal attack on reproductive rights, the Virginia Senate just passed a bill that will allow private adoption agencies the right to prevent gay parents from adopting a child. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has indicated his intent to sign this bill that will codify state sanctioned discrimination based upon sexual orientation:
The Senate voted 22-18 to pass the bill and send it to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has said he will sign it. Virginia will become just the second state with such a law, which proponents said was modeled after North Dakota’s statute. The legislation allows agencies to deny placements that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality.
Supporters of the “conscience clause” measure said it protects the religious rights of private agencies, many of them faith-based, that contract with the state to provide adoption and foster care services. The legislation is based on regulations adopted by the Virginia Board of Social Services in December. Converting those regulations into law would ensure that a future administration could not change them without legislative approval.
The legislature’s Democratic minority vehemently opposed the legislation, saying the intent is clearly to make it tougher for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Virginians to form families. “It’s the first step toward actually outlawing adoption by LGBT people,” Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria and the General Assembly’s only openly gay member, said in a floor speech.
Sen. Mark Herring, D-Fairfax, said agencies’ moral or religious beliefs should not take precedence over the best interests of the child.
Republican Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach briefly explained the bill on the Senate floor, but no supporters addressed the merits or responded to critics. However, the president of the Family Foundation of Virginia later called the Senate’s action “a tremendous victory for religious liberty and an affirmation of the critical role faith-based organizations play in providing hope and security for thousands of children and families in Virginia.”
“This important legislation does not in any way change current Virginia law regarding who can adopt in Virginia; it simply confirms that faith-based agencies will not be discriminated against by the state simply for acting according to their faith principles,” foundation president Victoria Cobb said in a statement.
Senate Democrats issued their own statement branding the measure as “yet another example of the divisive, extreme legislation that has dominated this session — to the detriment of ordinary Virginians.” Emboldened by electoral gains in November, majority Republicans have pushed a conservative agenda that includes new anti-abortion measures, expansion of gun-owners’ rights and voter identification requirements that Democrats say will curb minority voting.