But opponents say the bill goes far beyond just faith-based agencies to all private agencies, far beyond just adoption to foster care and far beyond religious reasons to moral reasons.
“This is establishing a whole lot of new precedent that we have not had before or seen before,’’ said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, general counsel to Equality Virginia and a former chief deputy attorney general.
The bill codifies a decision by the State Board of Social Services last year to allow faith-based organizations to reject prospective parents based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and family status. The federal government protects against discrimination based on race, color or national origin.
The proposed regulations, part of a massive overhaul of adoption rules, are to take effect May 1.
‘Focus’ on the child
“Our focus is really on the best placement of the child,’’ Virginia Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown said.
About 2,279 same-sex couples are raising about 4,558 children in Virginia, according to the Family Equality Council, a gay-rights organization. Most were adopted in Virginia, allowing only one parent to have custody.
Fifty-five percent of Virginians say that gay couples should be able to legally adopt children, according to a Washington Post poll released last year.
Fifty-nine percent of Virginians say that state-run agencies should not ban prospective parents based on sexual orientation, while 35 percent say they should, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, also released last year.
But that same poll indicates that Virginians are split on whether church agencies should be able to do that — 48 percent to 45 percent.
“Virginians expect any public agency or agency licensed by Virginia to treat all the state’s citizens fairly and justly and serve their best interests,’’ the Family Equality Council said in a statement.
But Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who does not think single or gay people should be allowed to adopt,
said the law is needed so that faith-based organizations do not close down, as they have in other states, including Massachusetts.
“These agencies should be able to practice the ethical views of their organizations,’’ said Marshall, who adopted
three children with his wife through Catholic Charities.
Gri and Abbott, legally married in California, adopted their children — Caleb, 14, and Alfred, 11, — through government foster care, not a private agency. They grew up with religion and are active in a church in the District.
But while they both say they are more than likely to vote for conservative candidates because of their pro-business, low-regulation approach, they believe legislators may be wrong on this issue.
“I think definitely this law is not in the best interest of the children,’’ Gri said.