On Tuesday, the Virginia Board of Social Services voted 5-1 to finalize regulations for private faith-based agencies that protect the religious liberty rights of these agencies and provide for the best interest of children. With the vote, the Board, for this year, closed the door on an originally proposed regulation that would have forced private agencies to either adopt children to homosexuals or lose their licenses. Forty two of the eighty one adoption agencies in Virginia are faith based.
For the third time this year, lobbyists and representatives who opposed the regulations because they did not include lanaguage that would have threatened religious liberty by requiring faith based agencies to adopt children to homosexuals focused not on the best interest of children, but instead they talked about the desire of adults to be parents. They also misrepresented the effect of the proposal and even the need, suggesting that without changes to the regulations homosexuals can't adopt in Virginia. The truth is that under current Virginia law, married couples and single individuals, heterosexual or homosexual, can adopt. In addition, regardless of the regulations, homosexual couples cannot adopt because under the Virginia Constitution they cannot be legally married.
Several organizations including The Family Foundation voiced opposition to the proposed regulation, including the Virginia Catholic Conference, both dioceses of Virginia, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists and representatives of faith-based agencies. Austin Nimocks, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund and Rita Dunaway, counsel with the Rutherford Institute also testified. Forty two of the eighty one private adoption agencies in Virginia are faith-based.
I told the Board in my testimony that the regulations they were considering meet the Commonwealth’s obligation to provide children with the best environment possible. It is not the mission of the state to provide adults with children, it is the duty of the state to provide children with the best opportunity for success, to do what is in the best interest of the child. Preferably and whenever possible, that is a home with both a mother and father.
In light of the continuing threat to the rights of faith-based ministries in Virginia, The Family Foundation and Virginia Catholic Conference will be asking the General Assembly to pass legislation in the 2012 session that will protect the conscience rights of these important faith-based ministries. The General Assembly needs to ensure that future regulatory efforts cannot be undertaken that will undermine the incredibly valuable work of these agencies.
We would like to thank all of you who submitted comments during the public comment period. Despite the fact that the additional comment period was requested by those pushing for the additional threatening regulation, and a large number of comments submitted in support appeared to come from outside Virginia, 1100 of the 2600 comments were supportive of religious liberty rights! Your voice made a difference!