The White House, in response to a Washington Blade inquiry about anti-gay adoption legislation moving through the Virginia Legislature, said Monday night President Obama believes adoption placement shouldn’t be “based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors.”
“While the president does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, he has long believed that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals based on their interest in offering a loving home, not based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson. “He recognizes that adoptive families come in many forms, and that we must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.”
Legislation is moving through the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature that would allow private adoption agencies to discriminate in placements conflicting with their religious or moral beliefs, including on the basis of sexual orientation. The Virginia House voted last week 71-28 to pass the bill and the Senate is likely to vote on it in the coming days. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is expected to sign the bill should it reach his desk.
Current policy in Virginia prevents unmarried couples — straight or gay — from adopting. But critics say the new legislation would codify the policy into law.
Jeff Caldwell, a McDonnell spokesperson, reaffirmed via email in response to the White House statement that the governor supports the adoption legislation because it allows faith-based agencies to place children in homes in accordance with their beliefs.
“If/when it passes the General Assembly and reaches his desk, he will sign it,” Caldwell said. “The governor has expressed his belief that faith-based adoption agencies should not be required to conduct adoption services that run counter to their religious beliefs, understanding that these organizations conduct a large portion of the state’s adoptions and could cease working to find homes for these children if they feel they cannot do it in accordance with their beliefs.”
But, according to committee testimony from the Family Equality Council, the legislation would go beyond faith-based agencies and allow all licensed organizations to make placement decisions in accordance with religious or moral policies. Additionally, the group says the bill isn’t limited to religious beliefs and would allow private entities to withhold placement based on any kind of moral objection.
Federal legislation pending before Congress known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would trump the pending anti-gay bill in Virginia by allowing the U.S government to restrict federal funds from going to states that have laws or practices allowing for discrimination in adoption on the basis of LGBT status.
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the Senate. President Obama has said he’s generally supportive of adoption rights for all couples, but he hasn’t yet declared support for the measure.
Asked whether Obama would endorse the federal bill as a means of countering the Virginia measure, Inouye said in the same statement, “While we have not reviewed Congressman Stark’s legislation, we share its goals to expand adoption rights and move the dialogue forward on this issue.”
Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, said in a statement her organization shares concerns about the Virginia adoption bill and the belief that discriminatory factors shouldn’t prevent children from finding homes.
“We are gravely concerned about the proposed legislation in Virginia because it attempts to place the private religious beliefs of organizations above the best interests of children in the public foster care system,” Chrisler said. “President Obama has long believed that every child deserves a loving family and that all qualified parents who can provide a stable family should be considered and not face discrimination. We join with the president in expressing support for the goals of the Every Child Deserves A Family Act so that our country can open up every available home to the 424,000 children in foster care.”