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Virginia Senate passes anti-gay adoption bill

Ebbin fears foster parents could force gay kids into ‘reparative’ therapy

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The Virginia Senate voted 22-18 on Thursday to approve a bill that would allow private adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement of children based on religious or moral beliefs, including disapproval of homosexuality.

The action by the Senate, which fell mostly along partisan lines, came one week after the state’s House of Delegates approved an identical bill. With Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell saying he planned to sign the legislation if it came to him, the bill is certain to become law.

“This bill authorizes every one of the 80 private adoption agencies licensed in Virginia to refuse to offer their services to any GLBT person based on a written moral policy, which they can make up tomorrow,” said State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria and Fairfax), who is gay.

“The bill says they can do that no matter how qualified the prospective mom and dad is to become a parent,” said Ebbin in an impassioned floor speech urging his colleagues to vote against the bill.

All 20 Republicans in the chamber voted for the bill, with two conservative-leaning Democrats, Sen. Charles Colgan of Prince William County and Sen. Phillip Puckett of Russell County joining Republicans to vote for the measure.

The bill, SB 349, became known as the “conscience clause” bill because supporters say it would protect the religious rights of faith based adoption and foster placement agencies, many of whom are funded by the state.

Ebbin and other opponents of the bill said that although it doesn’t say so directly, they believe it is aimed mostly at allowing adoption agencies to turn away LGBT people as adoptive or foster parents.

The bill doesn’t change the state’s existing adoption and foster placement law and policies that allow an agency to place a child with a gay parent if the agency wishes to do so. Existing law prohibits placement of children with an unmarried couple, gay or straight, but it does not bar single parent adoptions or foster placements for gays.

“One of the most important reasons not to pass this bill is I’m sure that next year or soon thereafter we’ll be addressing a bill that seeks to directly do what this bill does do indirectly – and that is to achieve the ultimate goal to ban foster care and adoption by GLBT people completely,” Ebbins told his Senate colleagues.

In an effort to lessen the bill’s impact, Democratic opponents introduced 18 floor amendments on Wednesday. The Senate voted down each of the amendments.

One of the amendments, introduced by Ebbin, called for prohibiting a foster parent from arranging for a gay or lesbian child to undergo “reparative” therapy to change his or her sexual orientation from gay to straight.

The bill could “endanger children – GLBT children – who make up a disproportionate share of youth in our child welfare system,” Ebbin said. “Once this bill becomes law, foster care agencies contracting with the state to place our children will be free to place children in homes that are not in their best interest and potentially damaging to them,” he said.

Ebbin said studies have shown that so-called reparative or conversion therapy often causes those undergoing it great emotional distress and sometimes leads to suicide.

Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), the lead sponsor of the bill, said the bill was aimed only at protecting the religious and moral beliefs of adoption and foster care agencies that provide an important service for the state.

“This is completely consistent with state and federal law,” he said during the Senate debate. “It does not change who can or cannot adopt a child.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Doctor Whom

    February 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    The bill, SB 349, became known as the “conscience clause” bill because supporters say it would protect the religious rights of faith based adoption and foster placement agencies, many of whom are funded by the state.

    Faith-based organizations to taxpayers: “Freedom of conscience for us, but not for you.”

  2. Bruce Majors

    February 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I do believe your headline is a lie. The bill seems to allow people the freedom of association to create private adoption agencies that only place kids with heterosexual couples. Does it allow creating adoption agencies that are open to gay people? Or that only service gays and lesbians? If it does not, your headline is a lie.

    If the Virginia state bill merely protects the freedom of association of private Virginia adoption agencies that do not want to make gay adoptions, then of course this same freedom of association is what would allow you to start an adoption agency that specialized in gay adoptions, or lesbian adoptions (or African American adoptions, or that deliberately treated all couples equally, or that had any other special mission).

    Just as leftover fascists are currently are trying to force everyone who doesn’t approve of sterilization (etc.) to pay for insurance plans that provide it, they are trying to make it impossible for a pregnant woman who wants to give her baby up only to a specific type of person or couple (gay or straight, two parent, the same race, etc.) to be unable to do so. Increasing the chance that she might choose abortion. One can imagine for example, a pregnant woman whose gay siblings had suffered abuse at the hands of a homophobic parent, who discovers from genetic testing that her baby is likely to be gay, who wants to choose an adoption agency that would only place her baby with a gay couple. Your one size fits all fascism would deny her access to such a “discriminatory” adoption agency.

    This is replicated throughout the economy. Currently it is illegal in DC and many counties and some states for a realtor to tell people whether neighbors, buyers, sellers, etc. are gay or straight. I once had a lesbian (and socialist) friend and client who was house shopping ask me which blocks or areas were most friendly for a lesbian couple planning a child. I had to tell her it is illegal in DC for me to provide any information about the neighbors, because sexual orientation is a protected class in DC, and fair housing laws violate real estate agent’s free speech to answer such a question. If she had wanted to go to Virginia, where sexual orientation is not a protected class, I could have answered her.

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D.C. area LGBTQ bars, eateries receive $100K COVID-19 relief grant

Pitchers, League of Her Own received NGLCC, Grubhub funds

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indoor dining, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. LGBTQ sports bar Pitchers and League of Her Own, its adjoining lesbian bar, are among the nation’s first LGBTQ bars that serve food as well as alcoholic beverages to receive a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant under a $2 million Community Impact Grant Program.

The program, aimed at supporting LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-allied small businesses struggling from the pandemic, was launched in September as a joint project of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which goes by the initials NGLCC, and the global online food delivery company Grubhub.

In a Tuesday announcement, NGLCC and Grubhub said Pitchers and League of Her Own, which operate as one business in adjoining buildings in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, are among the first three recipients of $100,000 grants under the Community Impact Grant Program. The other two recipients are FOODE + Mercantile of Fredericksburg, Va., and Café Gabriela of Oakland, Calif.

“Following this initial round of recipients, more grants will be issued in late 2021 and early 2022,” the announcement by the two groups says. In an earlier announcement, the groups said the application period for the grants program took place from September through Oct. 12, and the grants would range in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been debilitating for countless restaurant and bar owners, including the many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across the country who have persisted through lockdowns, operational changes and labor supply shortages,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “We’re grateful to have partnered with Grubhub to offer real lifelines to support businesses throughout the nation,” Nelson said.

“Building community in a fun and safe place has been our mission since the very beginning,” said David Perruzza, the owner of Pitchers and League of Her Own. “We’re relieved and thankful for these funds, and are looking forward to more stable days ahead,” Perruzza said.

“As a trans masculine and queer immigrant person of color, I’ve worked hard and put all my love and energy into building a beautiful and welcoming space in Café Gabriela,” said owner Penny Baldado. “I’ve remained resilient through COVID, and this grant is the injection of funds that we need to continue along our journey to full recovery,” Baldado said.

The statement announcing the first three grant recipient says funds for the $2 million grant program were generated by Grubhub’s “Donate the Change” program of which NGLCC became a partner in June. Grubhub says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub “to round out their order and donate the difference” to the charitable fund.

“COVID has turned the restaurant industry on its head the last 18 months, and at Grubhub, we’ve been working hard every day to support our restaurant partners across the country,” said Amy Healy, Grubhub’s vice president of government relations. “As the world starts to return to a new normal, we’re proud to partner with the NGLCC and provide these grants to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally-owned restaurants across the country that are pillars of their communities.”

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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