Virginia Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown, who was appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell and who also worked for two other Republican governors, George Allen and Jim Gilmore, is advising a state board that it cannot impose proposed regulations that some argue would, for the first time, allow same-sex couples in Virginia to adopt children.

The State Board of Social Services will consider the issue Wednesday.

Gay rights activists are also speaking out on the issue. “We urge the State Board of Social Services to take action to approve the non-discrimination rule consistent with their obligation as state officials and public servants to protect all Virginia citizens from unconstitutional discrimination,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “No person who wants to become a parent should be forced to leave the state to do so, and no child should be denied a loving home because of such discrimination.” 

Currently, only married couples and single men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, can adopt in Virginia. The proposed changes would require private and faith-based groups, such as Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, to allow gay parents to adopt or foster children.

But there is disagreement between lawmakers and activists about whether the proposed regulations would allow other classes, including unmarried couples — heterosexual or homosexual — to adopt.

Former Democratic governor Timothy M. Kaine, who is running for U.S. Senate next year, proposed the change to the regulations in November 2009, less than two months before he left office.

McDonnell has repeatedly said he opposes the changes because, he believes, faith-based organizations should be able to make their own policies. He said he will review the actions of the state board, a nine-member panel. All but four members are holdovers from Kaine’s administration.

“Virginia’s children deserve better than the politics the governor and commissioner are playing,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “Now the State Board of Social Services has the chance to put children first. We ask members of the board to reject the commissioner’s recommendations and eliminate discrimination in the adoption process.”

State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) last week offered advice similar to Brown’s, reversing that of his predecessor, William C. Mims, a former Republican legislator and now a Virginia Supreme Court justice.