Va. Board Backs Religious Liberty; Lets Agencies Refuse Gay Adoption

The Virginia State Board of Social Services voted against proposed regulations Wednesday that would force faith-based adoption and foster agencies to act against their religious beliefs and provide adoption services to gay and lesbian couples.

The decision angered homosexual activists who submitted 2,500 comments in April supporting the regulations. The vote also encouraged officials who believe faith-based adoption groups should have the religious liberty to follow their convictions.

In a 5 to 1 vote, the Social Services board decided not to add extended discrimination protections to final regulations set to begin May 2012. The extended protection would have banned selective service based on “sexual orientation, gender, age, religion and political beliefs disability and family status.”

Wednesday's vote was the second time the board rejected the extended discrimination clause. It was first voted down in April by the same margin.

Currently, Virginia law does not allow unmarried couples to adopt nor does it recognize gay marriage. As a result, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli advised the board in an April memo that it “lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language.”

Gay activist group Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union were disappointed with the decision. The groups supported the extension and rallied together the comments necessary for a second vote.

“Equality Virginia believes that best interests of the child should be the sole basis for child placement decisions,” Equality Virginia Legislative Counsel Claire Guthrie Gastanaga told The Washington Post.

In opposition to the new language, Gov. Bob McDonnell said he believes that faith-based agencies such as Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services should be allowed to make their own policies regarding potential adoptive parents and foster homes, according to The Washington Post.

Krystal Thompson, CEO of Commonwealth Catholic Charities, agreed.

"We have a right under federal and state law to make decisions consistent with our religious beliefs," she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Commonwealth Catholic Charities has reason to fear for its religious freedoms.

Earlier in the year, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services decided to drop financial contracts with faith-based adoption agencies whose religious beliefs prevent them from providing adoptive or foster services to unmarried, same-sex couples.

DCFS’ decision followed the enactment of Illinois’ Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act or “Civil Union Law.” The law gives same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children.

In November, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois announced it would be closing Catholic Charities offices and laying off employees after several unsuccessful attempts to overturn the DCFS decision. Catholic Charities had served the state for half a century.

Jeff Field, director of communications for the Catholic League, told The Christian Post, “Religious charities, whether they be Christian, Jewish or Catholic should absolutely be allowed to run their organization according to their religious tenets, even if they receive public funding.”

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