Should the state continue to fund adoption and foster care agencies that, based on their religion, refuse to place children with same-sex couples even when those couples fulfill all other criteria for providing a viable home?
This is the question that lawmakers in Virginia are now considering after new legislation was recently introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) that would bar Virginia from contracting with or funding agencies that discriminate against eligible prospective foster or adoptive families solely on the basis of personal characteristics including race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, family status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Two other lawmakers have since introduced legislation that would allow a “conscious clause” so that private organizations can continue to deny placement based on their beliefs and still receive funds.
From the Associated Press:
“One major issue is whether charities that receive tax dollars should be able to discriminate,” Ebbin said Friday. “Adoption is a public act that goes through state courts, and no government agent should engage in discrimination.”[…]
Sen. Jeffrey McWaters and Del. Todd Gilbert have introduced so-called “conscience clause” bills that would reinforce the Department of Social Services regulations and protect private, faith-based child-placement agencies.
The measures would allow private organizations to deny placement if doing so would go against their religious beliefs — including opposition to homosexuality. The measures also would bar the Department of Social Services from denying or revoking a placement agency’s license solely on the grounds that it has refused to allow adoptions or foster placement based on sexual orientation, and would protect agencies from legal action stemming from such decisions.
“We just want to ensure that people can continue to abide by their religious beliefs and continue to provide services consistent with those beliefs,” said Gilbert, R-Woodstock, who said he introduced the legislation on behalf of the Virginia Family Foundation, a conservative Christian group, to protect faith-based agencies.
Ebbin has already said that he believes his legislation will face a tough fight but he believes that it would address a fundamental concern that children should not be denied loving homes based on the sexual orientation of their parents.