The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed a bill that allows private adoption agencies receiving state funding to bar gay couples from adopting children. Virginia will be only the second state in the country to pass a law that allows adoption agencies to ban gay couples from adoptions, joining North Dakota. The bill also applies to foster care agencies.
Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the state General Assembly's first openly gay member who represents parts of Fairfax County, Arlington and the city of Alexandria, spoke out against the bill Thursday.
"Let's be clear about what this bill is about, it has always been about denying GLBT Virginians the opportunity to form families...this has been clear since its inception," Ebbin said from the floor of the Senate. "I ask you to vote 'no' for Senate Bill 349."
The state Senate voted, almost along party lines for the bill, with 22 Republicans voting for it and 17 Democrats voting against it. Democrats Chuck Colgan and Phil Puckett joined Republicans and voted for it.
SB 349 was introduced by state Republican state Sen. Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach.
The House passed its own version of the bill, HB 189, sponsored by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, last Friday on a vote of 78-21-1, with a handful of Democrats joining Republicans to vote for it. Gov. Bob McDonnell has indicated he will sign it into law.
“Virginia’s lawmakers are not only allowing private adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents, with the passage of this law they seem to be encouraging it,” Kent Willis, ACLU of Virginia executive director, said in a statement.
A series of amendments by Sen. George Barker (D-Fairfax, Prince William counties) would have limited the bill's application only to faith-based agencies, but the amendments were voted down.
Ebbin offered an amendment to prevent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children in the foster care system from being placed with families whose religious beliefs say that homosexuality is a choice, and sought to guarantee that those children would not be subject to controversial reparative therapies that seek to "cure" children of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, according to MetroWeekly.
"The well being of children should be our top priority," Ebbin said in a letter to constituents Thursday. "That is why, yesterday, I offered an amendment to SB349 that would have barred LGBT foster children from being sent to homes that would place these children in reparative therapy. We have seen too many examples of this awful practice, telling children that who they are is not OK—leading to horrible psychological effects—the consequences of which have led some children to take their lives. A disproportionate number of the children in the foster care system are either LGBT or questioning their orientation. Foster children are under the protection of the state, and no child under our protection should ever be sent to a home where they are subjected to reparative therapy. Sadly, all Republicans voted against this vital protection."
In response, McWaters, the sponsor of SB 349, told Ebbin "perhaps you need to get your own bill" and urged colleagues to reject the amendment because it would change the law as it currently exists, MetroWeekly reported. Ebbin’s amendment failed 16-23, with Democrats Charles Colgan, Phillip Puckett and Chap Petersen voting with Republicans to vote against it.