February 3, 2012 at 7:43 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Va. Senate panel approves anti-gay adoption bill

A subcommittee of the Virginia Senate on Wednesday approved a so-called “conscience clause” bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to refuse to approve adoptions or foster care placement on religious or “moral” grounds.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who is gay, said that although the words “sexual orientation” or “gay” and “lesbian” are not in Senate Bill 349, lawmakers clearly understand that it’s aimed at justifying the denial of adoptions or foster child placement for gay people.

“This would put into the law that they can be turned away,” Ebbin said. “The issue is simple –whether or not state dollars should be used or taxpayers’ funds should be used to fund discrimination in adoption and foster care.”

Ebbin noted that Virginia provides about $800 million a year to private, state certified adoption and foster care placement agencies.

Meanwhile, separate bills that would ban job discrimination against state workers and ban adoption-related discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity died in committee in the Virginia Senate this week. Ebbin was among the lead sponsors of both bills.

On Wednesday, the same day that the Senate Subcommittee on Rehabilitation and Social Services approved the conscience clause bill, it rejected an adoption non-discrimination bill that Ebbin introduced.

Ebbin’s bill called for banning discrimination in adoption and foster care placement based on a list of categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two days earlier, on Jan. 30, the Virginia Senate’s Committee on General Laws and Technology voted 8-7 along party lines to defeat an employment non-discrimination bill that Ebbin and Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) introduced.

Senate Bill 263 called for protecting state employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

A similar bill introduced in the Virginia Senate passed in committee and in the full Senate in 2010 and 2011 when the Senate was controlled by Democrats. It died both years in the House of Delegates, which was Republican controlled.

Democrats lost control of the Senate in the November 2011 election, which left the Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. The state’s Republican lieutenant governor, who has authority to cast a tie-breaking vote, effectively placed control of the Senate in the Republicans’ hands.

That enabled Republicans this year to gain an 8-7 majority on the General Laws and Technology Committee, which had jurisdiction over Ebbin’s employment non-discrimination bill.

Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) introduced the “conscience clause” adoption bill approved by the subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill doesn’t ban gay people from adopting or becoming foster parents. Ebbin and others familiar with the measure said it would not change existing state law that allows private agencies to approve gay adoptions and gay foster care placement if they wish to do so.

The legislation instead provides a state seal of approval to state-funded agencies that refuse to approve adoptions and foster care placement to a gay person or to other individuals based on religious or moral grounds, Ebbin said.

It also protects adoption or foster care placement agencies from “any claim for damages” from a person denied an adoption or foster care placement due to the reasons stated in the bill.

The bill was scheduled to be voted on in the full Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday, where Ebbin predicted it would pass before going to the full Senate.

“I think it has a pretty good chance of passing in the full Senate, too,” Ebbin said.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said the decision by the General Laws and Technology Committee to defeat the employment non-discrimination bill indicates that LGBT people are being treated as “second-class citizens” in Virginia.

“Virginia is one of only 20 states where you can still be fired from a state or local job simply because of your sexual orientation or gender identity,” Parrish said.

“This reality undercuts the Commonwealth’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest to be our college professors, our teachers and our other public employees,” he said. “It adversely affects our competitiveness and, ultimately, holds the potential to undercut the quality of our higher education institutions.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • No surprises here. The state should really change its saying of “Virginia is for lovers” to “Virginia is for haters,” because that is the reality of the situation. Virginia continues to march backwards towards more intolerance and discrimination, when the rest of the country is moving forward.

  • Really? REALLY???! It seems so perverse, doesn’t it, in 2012 to continue to have to fight for children to have the right to have families of their own!

    I take comfort in recognizing that in spite of the narrow mindedness and self-righteousness of the older men in the Virginia Senate, the times are changing . . . . The polls show that the majority of youth today recognize that ALL loving and safe families are good places for children to live.

    Thank you for taking time to address the hipocricy that we must continue to expose to pursue a socially and morally just world.

  • Repugnantcans are really scraping the bottom of the ignorance barrel, aren’t they? These hypocritical, self-righteous, morally-bankrupt, backwards, backwoods, inbred bunch of hillbilly MORONS in the GOP have to be stood up to, called out for the bigots that they are and voted against again and again until the gay community can persuade enough progressive, open-minded people to vote the GOPigs out of office.
    Out of the GOPig Party, I would say MAYBE 2-3% are NOT scum, the rest? All scum. Period!

  • This why I live in Maryland and not Virginia never mind the lower taxes and more plentiful jobs in NoVa than maybe in Montgomery County, Maryland. I can’t be fired for being gay in my area under Maryland law, not so in Virginia under Virginia law.
    The willful and intentional arrogance, ignorance, bigotry and backwardness of Virginia politicians like VA Atty General Ken Cuccinelli these days ruin an otherwise beautiful and historic state. During the colonial times, Northern Virginia of George Washington’s area was known for culture,refinement and intellect, now the state is just mired in hate and stupidity and is stagnating socially, politically, morally, and has badly lost its standing as a cultural and intellectual star.

  • If you’re gay or lesbian and live in Virginia you deserve to be subjected to this. What don’t you get about Virginia being a backwards state oriented towards anti-everything discrimination? Why would you live in Virginia and then whine about this? When McDonnell won the election it was highly likely that this would happen as soon as the votes were there.

    Similar to living on the Arctic circle and complaining about the cold weather.

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