Virginia debates adoptions by gay couples

Religious and social conservatives are squaring off with gay rights advocates over a proposed state-agency rule that would prohibit adoption agencies in Virginia from discriminating against prospective parents on the basis of sexual orientation.

The regulation under consideration by the Virginia Board of Social Services would apply anti-discrimination laws to adoption policies, preventing faith-based adoption agencies from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered couples.

Supporters say the proposed policy would help find needed homes for children in foster care.

“There’s currently over 5,500 children in the foster care system in Virginia that are either in homes or need to be placed in homes,” said Adam Sharp, who chairs the Young Democrats’ Family Caucus.

“Someone’s preferences as to whether or not a single person or a couple that’s not traditional is the ideal – that’s the wrong priority. The right priority is getting these children into homes and getting that stability.”

Currently, gay and lesbian couples in Virginia are legally able to adopt, but there are obstacles. For example, the state does not recognize second-parent adoption, which allows one member of a same-sex couple to adopt the other partner’s biological or adopted children. Moreover, many faith-based adoption agencies in Virginia do not allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt.

The state’s proposed policy would prohibit such discrimination.

“This provision does nothing more than ensure that a person who seeks to adopt or foster a child is not denied the opportunity to do so simply and solely because of who he or she is or what he or she believes,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, the state’s leading gay rights organization.

The proposal was initiated when Democrat Tim Kaine was governor. In January 2010, Republican Bob McDonnell took office.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, has been one of the most vocal critics of the proposal. In an email, he urged his supporters to lobby McDonnell against the rule change.

“These changes may cause some church-run adoption agencies to discontinue their services in Virginia,” Marshall said. “They shouldn’t have to choose between violating their moral views or serving children in need of families.”

McDonnell said last week he opposes the proposal.

“I don’t think we ought to force Catholic Charities to make that part of their policy or other similarly situated groups,” he told reporters.

But the governor’s opinion may not be the deciding factor, said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a lobbyist for Equality Virginia.

“The State Board of Social Services can, under state law, either choose to incorporate the governor’s suggestions in their final regulation, or to not,” Gastanaga said. “They have the final authority about what’s in the regulation.”

The proposed regulation was published on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website. The Board of Social Services accepted comments on the matter until April 1. The board received more than 1,000 comments – most of them opposed to the rule change. Some were titled “against adoption of children by homosexuals” and “Protect our Children Through Traditional Placements.”

The board will vote on the proposal next Wednesday [April 20].

During the comment period, Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation, a group that promotes “traditional values,” criticized the proposal.

Under existing state law, Cobb said, “Only married couples (one mother and one father, as decided by Virginia’s Marriage Amendment to the Constitution) or single individuals can adopt a child. The current proposal, which includes prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, stands in direct opposition to the confines of the Code.”

Even if the rule passes, a number of things could happen.

“Once it’s published in final form, the governor does have the authority to suspend the implementation, and there’s also some provisions for the legislature to get involved in the action,” Gastanaga said. “We’re a long way from done here.”

What the Proposed Rule Says
The rule that has stirred controversy is buried in a 29,000-word document titled “Standards For Licensed Child-Placing Agencies.” You can find the document at http://snipurl.com/va_adopt.

The rule is under “Part IV, Program Statement.” Section B says:

B. The licensee shall prohibit acts of discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or family status to:

1. Delay or deny a child’s placement; or

2. Deny an individual the opportunity to apply to become a foster or adoptive parent.
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Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

Henrico Police arrest 2 Georgia men in connection with January murder


Henrico Police have arrested and charged two Georgia men with first-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 18 murder of 36-year-old Lamont Cornelius Baldwin in the 1200 block of Dominion Townes Terrace.

Antonio Tyrone Johnson (above, left) and Santonio Rodrigus Brown (above, right), both 24 and both of Atlanta, were charged. Johnson also was charged with use of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a felon. > Read more.

Man struck and killed in western Henrico hit-and-run

A 24-year-old man died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in western Henrico April 23.

The victim, Emmanuel Isaiah DeJesus, was found lying on the side of the roadway at about 10:25 p.m., April 23 near Patterson Avenue and Palace Way. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. > Read more.

Henrico woman earns national pharmacy fellowship


Henrico County native Nilofar “Nellie” Jafari recently was named the American College of Clinical Pharmacy-American Society of Health-System Pharmacists-Virginia Commonwealth University Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow for 2017-18.

Jafari is a 2007 graduate of J.R. Tucker High School.

Pharmacists selected for the fellowship have the opportunity to gain real-world insight into health care policy analysis and development via immersion in the congressional environment. > Read more.

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The Henrico Community Band, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, will perform at 7:30 p.m. at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Under the direction of Archer Johnson, this free concert will feature a variety of music and fun for the entire family. For details and reservations, call 501-5859. Full text

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