Monday, February 13, 2012

Virginia v Loving Families

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a holiday which celebrates the love and commitment we have for one another. As parents, partners, and friends around the world gather to reflect upon their affectionate bonds, the state of Virginia is rushing to halt the creation of loving families.

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) and Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) are sponsoring a bill which, if passed, will allow private adoption agencies to deny placements if they conflict with their religious or moral beliefs. The bill, which supposedly aims to protect religious freedoms, has already passed both chambers and now awaits Governor Bob McDonnell (R)’s signature, something he has already agreed to sign once it reaches his desk.

 “What this bill is designed to do, is allow any agency to discriminate based on sexual orientation [and gender identity],” Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun) said during a committee hearing. Christine James-Brown of the Child Welfare League of America also expressed her displeasure with the proposed law: “These children have been through so much already. It is cruel to deny them a secure home with a qualified family that happens to differ from the religious or moral beliefs held by a particular agency.”

Several legislators are objecting to the bill based on financial grounds in addition to its discriminatory language. In Virginia, there are 77 private agencies which are funded by the state. “You have the right to exercise religion as you see fit,” says Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), “but you don’t have a right to impose it on someone else using state dollars.”

A federal bill would override Virginia’s anti-family legislation, and would also overturn similar laws in Utah, Arizona, and Nebraska. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770), sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate, is currently pending action in Congress. ECDF would open up more homes for foster youth by restricting federal funding for states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the foster youth involved.

Take Action: Email your Members of Congress and ask them to support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 1681/S. 1770) today!