Republican Senators Vote to Allow Private Adoption Providers to Discriminate Against Gay and Lesbian Virginians

Today, Virginia Republicans rebuffed every attempt at bipartisanship as they rejected every Democratic amendment to Senate Bill 349, which allows foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against gays and lesbians when placing children.

Republicans rejected commonsense amendments to the bill limiting its scope in adding protections for gay and lesbian children. Although Republicans have consistently argued that this bill is designed to protect religious agencies, it is clear that their aim is to allow private agencies to discriminate.

Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudon) introduced amendments to make the provisions of SB 349 apply only to private faith-based agencies. “The proponents of this legislation say that all they want to do is make sure that faith-based child placing agencies are able to exercise their religious principles. I think the bill actually goes much farther, and allows any social service or adoption agency to make up it’s own rules — even when those private placing agencies are paid with tax dollars.”

Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) said, “The way the bill is written, it allows a foster care or adoption agency to make up rules on the fly. There are about 80 private agencies that provide adoptions or foster care services. About half are faith based, and this bill allows them to discriminate.”

Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) put forth an amendment to remove foster care agencies from SB 349.  Children in foster care “are wards of the state, and I don’t think the state should allow children under its protection to be subjected to discriminatory policies. I see unintended consequences to this legislation.”

Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) proposed an amendment to ensure that “no child could be permitted or required to be placed with a family that will attempt to subject them to conversion therapy. There are numerous instances of children being horribly harmed — and sometimes attempting suicide — due to these programs.”

All of these commonsense amendments were rejected, largely along party lines.

Background: Division from the White House to the Governor’s Mansion

President Barack Obama has indicated his opposition to Virginia Republicans’ attempt to codify discrimination against gays and lesbians.  A spokesman for President Obama, Shin Inouye, told The Washington Blade yesterday that adoption regulations shouldn’t be “based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors…we must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.”

President Obama’s commentary on Senate Bill 349 prompted a response from a spokesman for Governor Bob McDonnell, who reiterated the Governor’s belief  “that faith-based adoption agencies should not be required to conduct adoption services that run counter to their religious beliefs.”

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted 71-28 in favor of House Bill 189, which is similar to Senate Bill 349.

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