U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine dodged a question this week on whether he believes gay couples should be able to adopt children in Virginia despite being consistently opposed to unmarried couples — heterosexual or homosexual — adopting in the past.

“No couples in Virginia can adopt other than a married couple -- that’s the right policy,’’ Kaine said in 2005 when running for governor. “Gay individuals should be able to adopt.”

But asked twice about the issue at a news conference this week, Kaine declined to answer whether he supports gay couples adopting children.

Kaine, who resigned Tuesday as chairman of the Democratic National Committee to begin his Senate campaign, said he supports a proposed regulation initiated when he was governor that would prohibit private and faith-based groups, such as Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, from discriminating against gay parents. But, Kaine said, it would not allow unmarried couple to adopt, because that is barred by Virginia law.

“It was started during my time as governor without my active involvement although I definitely support it,’’ Kaine told reporters at his first news conference as a candidate this week. “I will state unequivocally I do not believe that agencies that work in adoption should discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or any other grounds other than the best interest of the child. That should the be the criteria.”

Currently, only married couples and single men and women — regardless of sexual orientation — can adopt in Virginia.

The proposed regulation, according to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office, would require that unmarried couples — heterosexual or homosexual — be able to adopt because no agencies, including faith-based groups would be able to turn them away. But Kaine says he disagrees with that interpretation.

“They did not promise to change the issue about couple or single person adoption because that’s statutory,’’ he said. “You can’t do it by regulation. It didn’t change the issue of couples versus individuals.”

Meanwhile, McDonnell continues to be lobbied heavily from people on both sides about whether he should ask the State Board of Social Services to kill or approve the proposed regulations.

He told reporters this week that he opposes the regulations because faith-based organization should be able to make their own policies. His spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell will “ensure that the necessary changes to Virginia’s adoption regulations encourage adoptions and will also protect the religious beliefs of our great faith-based adoption organizations in Virginia.”

Mark McDermott, an adoption attorney who practices in Virginia and a board member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said state law allows faith-based organizations to not work with potential adoptive parents on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. The proposed regulations would change that.

Fifty-seven Republican members of the House of Delegates, including Speaker Bill Howell (Stafford) and Majority Leader Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights) sent McDonnell a letter asking him “to do everything in his authority” to kill the regulations.

“If religious liberty is to preserve any value in our society, we must respect the right of faith-based organizations to perform their charitable works without the intrusion of the government,’’ they wrote.

But the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, took out a full-page ad in Thursday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch urging McDonnell to support the regulations.

The Human Rights Campaign, along with the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, also sent letters to McDonnell and social services board members asking for the regulations to be enacted.

“This is about children, not about politics,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “Thousands of children could finally find their forever families and have the opportunity for a happy, healthy life if these regulations are enacted. We ask the governor to think about the children and we hope the State Board of Social Services is ultimately guided by the best practices established by the child welfare profession, and not by discriminatory motivations that create barriers to permanent families for Virginia’s children.”

Campaign officials note that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association support efforts to allow same sex couples to adopt.

“We need to open the doors for every qualified family to pursue adoption—that is the role of child welfare professionals, and we hope that the Virginia Board of Social Services will join with us,” said Joe Kroll of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

The Family Equality Council, a national group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, also called on McDonnell to endorse the regulations.

“This proposal would create loving homes for many children who are in foster care or who are awaiting placement in foster homes,” said Jennifer Chrisler, the group’s executive director. “Opponents of this measure would have you believe this is about safeguarding traditional family values. For those children who need parents, there is nothing of greater value than the support and love of people who want to make a difference in their lives.”