October 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe: Gay adoption now legal in Va.

Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall, Carol Schall, Virginia, Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

From left, Mary Townley, Emily Schall-Townley and Carol Schall attended the 2014 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner on April 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday announced gay couples can now adopt in Virginia.

The McAuliffe administration noted the legalization of same-sex marriage in the commonwealth on Monday in a bulletin to the Virginia Department of Social Services.

“Now that same-sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love,” said McAuliffe in a press release that announced the bulletin. “This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families.”

“By formally recognizing that same-sex couples can now legally adopt, we are more fully complying with the ruling in this important case, and sending the message once again that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone,” added the governor.

Dozens of same-sex couples have married in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it would not consider marriage cases from the commonwealth and other states.

Mary Townley and Carol Schall of Chesterfield, who were one of the plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that challenged Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, on Monday renewed their California marriage vows.

Emily Schall-Townley, the couple’s 16-year-old daughter, stood by her parents’ side during the brief Richmond ceremony that Attorney General Mark Herring officiated.

“For the first time legally in Virginia I can say I’m here with my wife Mary and my daughter Emily,” said Schall.

Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Stanton and Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester — the two plaintiff couples in a second lawsuit against the commonwealth’s marriage amendment the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed last summer — have a young son and daughter respectively.

India Lipton of Chesterfield told the Blade on Monday that she and her partner of 11 years, Shirley Lesser, decided to marry so her spouse could legally adopt their son Dylan.

“We really wanted to get the legal part done now so that way she can begin the proceedings to adopt our son,” said Lipton.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, welcomed McAuliffe’s announcement.

“Equality Virginia applauds Governor McAuliffe for formally recognizing that same-sex couples now have the same rights as all other married couples in Virginia, including the right to adopt a child together,” Parrish told the Blade. “For lesbian and gay couples who plan to or are already raising children together, the freedom to marry also means that they are able to better protect their children by providing them with two legal parents.”

Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council, described the announcement as “terrific news.”

“We’re really happy that the governor has taken this stance,” he told the Blade during a telephone interview.

Blau nevertheless noted that private adoption and foster care agencies under Virginia’s so-called “conscience clause” law can still reject prospective parents based on religious or moral beliefs.

“For our families of course Virginia is still problematic,” he told the Blade.

McAuliffe on Tuesday issued an executive order that mandates all state agencies must comply with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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