The junior U.S. senator from Virginia is denouncing an anti-gay adoption bill that was approved by the state legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
According to his office, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) spoke out against the legislation Saturday night — calling it “mean-spirited” and “wrong” —while speaking to the Virginia Democrat’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Richmond, Va.
“And while Virginia Democrats work to provide a fair shot to young people across Virginia, Republicans in Richmond would rather spend their time defining which families should be allowed to adopt foster children,” Warner said. “Let me tell you this: As the first Virginia governor to ban discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation — and as a senator who stood up and voted to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — that is mean-spirited, and that is wrong. It is wrong to deny a foster child the opportunity to belong to a supportive, modern family simply because it is led by a same-sex couple in a loving and committed relationship.”
The anti-gay adoption bill would allow private adoption agencies to discriminate in placements conflicting with their religious or moral beliefs, including on the basis of sexual orientation.
Current policy in Virginia prevents unmarried couples — straight or gay — from adopting. There are also no non-discrimination protections in place for LGBT couples. Critics say the new legislation would codify the policy into law.
The Virginia Senate last week approved the bill by a vote of 22-18 and the Virginia House approved it earlier in the month by a vote of 71-28. Jeff Caldwell, a spokesperson for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said he’ll sign the legislation.
Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council and among the chief advocates speaking out against the legislation, commended Warner for condemning the legislation.
“Senator Warner’s statements demonstrate why he is a leader in our Congress and why he provided good leadership while governor of Virginia,” Chrisler said. “Every child deserves a family and it is indeed mean-spirited and anti-family to deny children in foster care the opportunity to find a loving home with qualified, caring parents.”
Warner spoke out against the bill after accusing the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature of practicing the same kind 0f obstructionist politics that he says House Republicans are playing in Congress.
“The House is being run by a ‘just-say-no’ crowd that can’t seem to say ’yes’ to anything,” the senator said. “And, unfortunately, we’re beginning to see the worst of this style of politics here in Richmond at the state legislature.”
Warner said while Virginia Democrats are focused on creating jobs, Republicans controlling the state legislature are moving through legislation like the anti-gay adoption bill, interfering with abortion rights and manufacturing a voter ID problem to engage in voter suppression efforts.
According to Roll Call, more than 1,200 state lawmakers and Democratic activists and supporters gathered at the Greater Richmond Convention Center for the event, which raised $350,000 for the state party for President Barack Obama’s re-election and former Gov. Tim Kaine’s campaign for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D).
The senator’s denunciation of the anti-gay bill is noteworthy because, as a member of Virginia’s federal delegation, he often doesn’t weigh in on state matters. An avowed centrist, Warner also usually doesn’t speak out on social issues.
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.
Neither Warner nor Webb is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Spokespersons told the Washington Blade the Virginia Democrats are reviewing the bill.