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Should states permit adoption agencies to discriminate against gay adoptive or foster parents?

February 10, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Should private adoption and social service agencies that accept federal dollars be permitted to deny gays or unmarried couples the right to adopt or foster children?

That's a question that is about to be decided in Virginia, where the state senate just passed legislation that will allow private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality. The state house has identical legislation that is also likely to pass and the governor is likely to sign it into law. The law won't outlaw adoption by gays or unmarried couples, but it will make it more difficult for them to find agencies that will permit them to adopt.

This is basically how it already works in many states, so in that sense the Virginia legislature isn't doing anything new. The law will prevent what has already happened in some states, including Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. , when non-discrimination laws were passed and the Catholic Church closed adoption and social service agencies altogether rather than placing children with gays or unmarried couples. Virginia's conscience clause will presumably permit those agencies to continue operating.

On the other hand, I thought that Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democratic Alexandria, Va., state senator and the only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had a good point. The AP quoted him as saying that the Virginia bill will endanger gay and bisexual children, who make up a large number of Virginia kids wating for foster or adoptive homes, because they are more likely to be placed in homes with parents opposed to homosexuality.

Gay teens already have a high suicide rate and probably make up a fairly high percentage of foster kids. Gay foster parents might be better suited to deal with those kids. Ebbin sees the entire law as discriminatory against gay famillies and thinks it's inappropriate to discriminate using state dollars. What should states do here?


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