Gov. Robert McDonnell is expected to sign into law a bill passed by the Virginia legislature that protects religious adoption agencies from being forced to place children with individuals in homosexual unions. The bill passed in the state Senate on a 22-18 vote and by 71 to 28 in the House of Delegates.
“Private, religious-based adoption agencies are a major asset to our communities as they work diligently to find loving, caring, stable homes for children in need of care,” Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email
“This legislation will help ensure that these adoption agencies remain active in finding homes for these children,” Caldwell continued, “without being mandated by government to violate the tenets of their deeply held religious beliefs in the process. This is a bill that reaffirms religious liberty and freedom, a hallmark of this great nation.”
“It is unsettling that we have to resort to state-level legislation to ensure religious liberties that are supposed to be protected under the Constitution,” said state Sen. Jeff McWaters, a Republican from Virginia Beach and sponsor of the bill. “However, I am glad to have played a role in maintaining our network of adoption agencies here in Virginia.”
Although the word “homosexual” is not used, the bill clearly exempts faith-based agencies from having to allow homosexuals to adopt: According to the bill, “to the extent allowed by federal law,” private agencies will not have to make placements that require the agency to violate its “written religious or moral convictions.” In order for it to be constitutional, the law has to align with federal anti-discrimination laws.
The legislation came about as the result of a regulatory process last year in which the question of whether to force private agencies, including faith-based ones, to disregard factors such as “sexual orientation” and “family status” when placing children in homes figured prominently.
Though provisions seen as objectionable to faith-based organizations were rejected by the State Board of Social Services, leaders of religiously based, private child-placement agencies worried that the issue would continue to arise and that eventually they would be forced to violate their consciences.
As a result of this concern, Caruso said, the Virginia Catholic Conference, along with Virginia Bishops Paul Loverde of Arlington and Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond, made it a “top priority” to see that statutes were enacted by the General Assembly to ensure conscience protection.
A statement by the Virginia Catholic Conference says that the bill “ensures that Virginia’s children can continue to be served by faith-based agencies and that Virginia’s birthparents and prospective adoptive parents can continue to choose agencies that share their values.”
While not breaking new ground, the bill codifies the current situation. Virginia permits single people and married couples to adopt. Since homosexual “marriage” is not legal in the state, two homosexuals living together could not adopt under the current law. The statute protects faith-based organizations from having to place a child with a single homosexual and could provide protection if marriage laws are changed.
“This move strengthens First Amendment protections and safeguards our ability to assist those many families who seek and depend on our help,” said Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
However, President Obama has indicated that he is considering intervening to overturn Virginia’s legislation:
It is rare for a president to become involved in state-level legislative battles, but The Christian Post reported that White House spokesman Shin Inouye released a statement about the Virginia bill from President Obama.
According to the Post, the statement read: “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.”