Metro Weekly

LGBT Groups Slam Gov. McDonnell on ''Virginia Adopts''

New campaign for placement of children labeled hypocritical in light of McDonnell signing ''conscience clause'' law

LGBT groups are crying foul after Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) launched a campaign Friday aimed at finding homes for a thousand of the nearly 4,000 children in Virginia’s foster care system.

The Family Equality Council and Equality Virginia are pointing out that McDonnell has previously restricted adoption and foster-care options by signing into law a so-called ”conscience clause” bill that allows state-licensed agencies to discriminate against prospective parents on sexual orientation and a variety of other factors.

A component of McDonnell’s new ”Virginia Adopts” initiative is the ”Campaign for 1,000,” a goal of placing 1,000 children in the state’s foster-care system with families across the commonwealth.

LGBT advocates point out, however, that McDonnell has already denied access to loving families through legislation he signed last year.

”Virginia is the worst in the county in placing children out of foster care,” Denise Brogan-Kator, senior legislative counsel for the Family Equality Council, said in a statement responding to the launch of Virginia Adopts. ”Hopefully, this campaign signals the Governor’s awareness of this fact, and will lead him to opening the way to adoption and foster care for more prospective parents in the Commonwealth. The only factor that should matter is the child’s best interest.”

McDonnell last year signed into law a ”conscience clause” bill that bolstered a 5-1 decision by the State Board of Social Services allowing adoption or foster care agencies to refuse to place children with particular adoptive or foster parents based their sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability, family status and political beliefs.

Under Virginia law, adoption is available only to opposite-sex married couples or single people, but not to unmarried couples, gay or straight. But the law McDonnell signed allows placement agencies to refuse consideration of potential adoptive or foster parents if doing so violates an agency’s written or stated religious or moral convictions, even if those agencies receive state funding.

”Governor McDonnell’s administration has continually put the special interests of certain agencies ahead of the best interests of all children in need of a loving family,” James Parrish, executive director of the nonpartisan LGBT rights group Equality Virginia, said in a statement critical of McDonnell’s record on adoption. ”Denying willing and qualified families makes no sense when the state itself admits it has more than 4,000 children in the foster care system.”

In addition to Parrish’s statement, Equality Virginia also sent an email to supporters asking them to take to social media and urge the governor to consider LGBT Virginians as prospective adoptive/foster parents. Supporters are asked to send messages to the campaign’s @VirginiaAdopts Twitter account using the hash tag #Campaignfor1000; to post their feelings on the Virginia Adopts Facebook page; and to contact the governor’s office directly.

”In announcing his adoption campaign, the governor said ‘every child deserves the security and love that a family provides,”’ said Rob Keeling, an adoptive father from Richmond, quoted in the statement released jointly by Equality Virginia and the Family Equality Council. ”As an adoptive dad, I fully agree. Thousands of parents in Virginia who are gay and lesbian would gladly provide a loving and secure home to kids in need, if Virginia dropped laws and policies that discriminate.”

”I am a proud father to one adopted son,” said Greg Greeley, of Arlington, also quoted in the statement. ”I know that my sexual orientation has nothing to do with my capability to parent or my capacity to care for my child. If the Governor allowed ALL loving, capable and qualified parents to foster or adopt, Virginia could solve that problem.”

A spokesman for McDonnell’s office was not immediately available for comment.

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