Va. Senate Passes 'Conscience Clause' Restricting Gay Adoption

The Virginia State Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill allowing private adoption agencies to consider religious and moral beliefs as a determining factor in placing children with adoptive parents. Gov. Bob McDonnell has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

Pro-family groups who wanted private adoption agencies to have the authority to consider moral, religious and lifestyle choices of couples when considering their worthiness as adoptive parents, praised the legislation. The bill protects faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place a child with gay parents.

"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," Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb said in a written statement.

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Under federal law, state-funded adoption agencies are prohibited from denying child-placements based on race, color or national origin.

In a rare move, White House spokesman Shin Inouye issued a statement on behalf of President Obama opposing the bill.

"While the president does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, he has long believed that we must ensure adoption rights for all couple and individuals based on their interest in offering a loving home, not based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors, " read the statement.

Democrat State Sen. Mark Herring (Loudoun County) said the state should not be discriminating. Instead, it should be doing everything in its power to find good homes for children based on their needs, not the preferences of private adoption agencies.

"We had 5,327 children in our foster care system," Herring told Virginia Public Radio. "And each and every one of those children ought to expect that we are doing everything we reasonably can to find the best home for them based on their own individual needs, not the needs of the placing agency."

The bill passed with a 22-18 vote, with two Democrats joining the chamber's 20 Republicans in voting in favor of the legislation.

Several pro-homosexual groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and The Child Welfare League of America sent letters opposing the bill.

The state has 120 local departments of social services that oversee adoption services, of which 77 are state-licensed private child placement agencies.

Virginia now joins North Dakota as the only two states with such a law on the books.

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