Daniel Gri and James Abbott, who adopted two sons in California, say that through the proposed guidelines their adopted home of Virginia is further hampering gay people from adopting.
“It makes it seem like it’s not about sexual orientation,” said Gri, who lives in Oakton. “That’s a technique anti-gay organizations use.’’
But supporters of the legislation say it would protect religious freedom by allowing birth parents to choose an agency — and as a result, adoptive parents — who adhere to their religious beliefs.
“This measure will chisel into law the principle that people of faith can adhere to their convictions without fear of reprisal from those who would discriminate against their religious beliefs regarding how we should raise our children,” said House Deputy Majority Leader C. Todd Gilbert(R-Shenandoah).
The legislation’s fate became clear after Republicans took control of the state Senate and gained an even heftier majority in the House. The House voted overwhelmingly to pass the measure last week, largely along party lines, while the Senate is expected to vote this week.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is expected to sign the legislation. He has repeatedly said that faith-based organizations should be able to make their own policies.
Virginia has 77 private agencies, 16 of them faith-based. They placed 557 of the state’s 2,503 adoptions last year, according to state figures. In total, the agencies and 120 local social services departments received $144 million in state and federal funds for child placement last year.
Who can adopt, and who can’t
The bill does not change who can adopt. State law does not allow unmarried couples — homosexual or heterosexual — to adopt. But it is possible for single people, including gays, to adopt.
For gay-rights group Equality Virginia, the ACLU and others, the legislation merely perpetuates discrimination.
“Let’s just speak the truth and tell it like it is,’’ Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria) said. “This legislation is about ensuring that foster placement agencies that do not want to place children . . . with same-sex couples are able to do that.’’
Democrats, outgunned in the newly Republican-controlled legislature, have unsuccessfully tried to amend the legislation and pass their own bill, which would have banned discrimination by agencies that receive state funds. Nine states prohibit discrimination in adoption.
“Any bill that sanctions discrimination is unfortunate and misguided,’’ said Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), who attempted to amend the bill last week.
The bill would prohibit the state from rejecting or revoking agencies’ licenses because they turn away prospective parents. Currently, about 4,407 children are in foster care in Virginia. About 1,300 of them have a goal of adoption.