By Anna Jaffray
The Virginia State Senate passed a law last week allowing private and state-affiliated adoption agencies to deny placement of adoptees based on religious or moral beliefs, including homosexuality. The bill mirrors a house bill passed in February and Governor Robert McDonnell has said that he will sign it into law.
The law affirms a State Board of Social Services decision of December 2011, to allow state-licensed adoption and foster care agencies to refuse placement based on religion, moral beliefs, age of prospective parents, gender, disability, family status or political beliefs.
Democratic State Senator Adam Ebbin, the only openly gay assembly member in Virginia, said the bill was a danger to homosexual and bisexual children by letting agencies place them with parents opposed to homosexuality, calling the bill, “…morally wrong,” on the Senate floor.
“In the all-out effort to stop LGBT people from adopting children, this bill not only limits the opportunities to children to find loving homes, it will actually endanger LGBT children, who make up a significant number of children in our foster care system.”
Virginia law currently bans same-sex couples from adopting yet allows single parents to adopt, as long as it is approved by the designated agency.
The law protects adoption agencies, private or state funded, from legal recourse on the basis of discrimination. Stated in the language of the bill, “…the refusal of a private child-placing agency to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in a placement that violates its written moral or religious convictions or policies shall not form the basis of any claim for damages.”
The Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank estimates, “1,700 adopted children and 300 foster children are being raised by single lesbians and gay men in Virginia.” Furthermore, the report indicates nearly 40,000 lesbians and gay men may be prospective adoptive parents in Virginia.
The Williams Institute memo also includes the fiscal impact of limiting the placement of foster children in the state of Virginia. First, this bill may increase or prolong the number of foster children in congregate care, which increases state costs by an additional $2000 per child. Second, “…the state saves nearly $30,000 per year for each child adopted out of the foster care system.”
Though the financial savings to the state of Virginia are significant, it is important to recognize the vital role that permanent, loving families play in the development of any child. By limiting the pool of adoptive parents, more children will be forced to stay in the impermanent and uncertain environment of congregate care or foster care.
“I wonder why anyone would seek to limit opportunities for the 1300 children in our system waiting for adoption, to find loving, permanent homes” says Ebbin.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, an international non-profit for LGBT rights, the American Medical Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have all spoken out in favor of same-sex adoption.
In most of the United States, the legal status of same-sex couples adoption remains in a grey area, however it is illegal in five states: Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alabama and Ohio, while 18 states currently support the legal adoption of children by same-sex couples.