Virginia Board of Social Services

Urgent: Public Comment On Adoption Regs Ends Tonight; ADF: "Adoption In The Best Interest Of The Child"

There are only hours left in the 30 day re-opened public comment period regarding a proposal that would allow Virginia government to discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to place children up for adoption to homosexuals, contrary to their consciences, faith beliefs and principles. Comments must be posted by tonight at 11:59 p.m. Nearly 2,000 people have commented so far.

If you have yet to do so, please contact the Board of Social Services and urge it to reject the proposed regulation that would discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals or cease performing their mission of helping children.

Our friends at Alliance Defense Fund have submitted exceptional comments that describe the history of adoption and its purpose — to give children the best possible outcome, and that it has always been in the state's interest to adopt children to stable, loving homes with both a mother and a father.

According to Austin Nimocks, ADF's senior legal counsel:

While the missions of several child-placing agencies are expressly faith-based, that faith basis directly serves Virginia's public policy in reflecting the universal understanding that, ideally, children need both a mother and a father. Therefore, Virginia should not burden these agencies with any regulations with threaten their ability to find children homes with loving mothers and fathers.

Nimocks goes on to make the case that the history of adoption laws in Virginia and the nation shows that their purpose is to imitate the natural family. It is in the best interest of children to be place with both a mom and a dad. The proposed regulation would both discriminate against faith-based ministries as well as deny children their best hope and opportunity.

In Virginia, individual homosexuals already are allowed to adopt and there are public and private agencies that facilitate those adoptions. Adding discriminatory language to the regulations would not increase the number of children being adopted into homes. In fact, it would decrease it by forcing the majority of private child placement agencies, which are sectarian, to cease fulfilling their mission or violate their faith. This would not help children but place them at risk.

This proposed regulation also places undue restrictions on birth mothers and consequently adoption agencies. Within the confines of an adoption conducted through a private agency, a birth mother is due the freedom to choose an adoptive parent of the same religious convictions so that her child may be raised accordingly. Consequently, private adoption agencies are deserving of the ability to screen adoptive parents based on the agency’s beliefs or the beliefs of their birth mothers.

Please contact the Board of Social Services by following the instructions below and urge them to reject any regulation that discriminates against faith-based child placement agencies. It's simple. Follow these instructions:

1. Click here.

 

2. Once on that page, click "Enter a comment."

3. Type "Preserve religious freedom" in the subject line.

4. Type and submit your comments.

Some points you may wish to consider incorporating into your comments:

» On April 20, the State Board of Social Services correctly upheld the fundamental right of faith-based child placement agencies to continue their great work of helping children and families without governmental intrusion into the practice of their faith.

» Faith-based child placement agencies have a right, under federal and state law, to make decisions that are consistent with their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about marriage and family life. This right must be respected and preserved.

» Children benefit from being placed in situations that reflect the natural family, with a mother and a father.

» Many birthparents and prospective adoptive parents hold these beliefs as well, and they have every right to work with agencies that share their values.

» Forcing agencies and individuals to choose between following their own values or following the proposed discriminatory regulation would be an unprecedented violation of religious freedom in Virginia. Religious liberty is foundational to our Commonwealth and our country.

» Faith-based agencies provide vital services to our communities. They must be allowed to continue the great work they are doing.

Only One Week Left: Help Protect Rights Of Faith Based Child Service Agencies!

There is a lot going on right now in Virginia: An ever earlier presidential race, an earlier than ever U.S. Senate campaign, a vitally important State Senate election only five weeks form now, a phenomenal annual gala this Saturday, not to mention spectacular early fall weather in which to experience great Virginia festivals. But there's something vitally important to add to the check list that won't take long and which you can do from the comfort of your home computer.

There is only one week left in the 30 day re-opened public comment period regarding a proposal that would allow the government to discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals despite their deeply held faith beliefs and principles. This not only is discrimination, it violates conscience protections and religious liberty.

More than 1,000 people have commented so far. Have you?

If you have yet to do so, please contact the Virginia Board of Social Services and urge them to reject the proposed regulation that would discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to put children up for adoption to homosexual couples — or cease to perform their mission of helping children.

In April, the Board voted 7-2 to adopt new regulations for Virginia’s private adoption services. The regulations approved did not include a proposal that would have discriminated against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals. Despite having nearly two years to make their case through the regulatory process, organizations like Equality Virginia and the ACLU claimed that the Board's decision to not include the discriminatory language was done so without adequate information.

After losing the vote in April, Equality Virginia and the ACLU threatened to sue if they did not get an additional public comment period. During the initial public comment time, more than 1,000 Virginians commented on the proposed regulations, with only around 30 in favor. This compares to the average of less than two dozen comments typically received for any proposed new regulations!

In Virginia, individual homosexuals already may adopt and there are public and private agencies that facilitate those adoptions. Adding discriminatory language to the regulations would not increase the number of children being adopted into homes. In fact, it would decrease adoptions by forcing the majority of private child placement agencies, which are sectarian, to cease fulfilling their mission or violate their faith.

This proposed regulation also places undue restrictions on birth mothers and consequently adoption agencies. Within the confines of an adoption conducted through a private agency, a birth mother is due the freedom to choose an adoptive parent of the same religious convictions so that her child may be raised accordingly. Consequently, private adoption agencies are deserving of the ability to screen adoptive parents based on the agency's beliefs or the beliefs of their birth mothers.

Please contact the Board of Social Services by following the instructions below and urge it to reject any regulation that discriminates against faith-based child placement agencies.

» Click here.

» Click "Enter a comment."

» Type "Preserve religious freedom" in the subject line.

» Type and submit your comments.

Points to consider incorporating into your comments:

» On April 20, the State Board of Social Services correctly upheld the fundamental right of faith-based child placement agencies to continue their great work of helping children and families without governmental intrusion into the practice of their faith.

» Faith-based child placement agencies have a right, under federal and state law, to make decisions that are consistent with their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about marriage and family life. This right must be respected and preserved.

» Many birth parents and prospective adoptive parents hold these beliefs as well, and they have every right to work with agencies that share their values.

» Forcing agencies and individuals to choose between following their own values or following the proposed discriminatory regulation would be an unprecedented violation of religious freedom in Virginia. Religious liberty is foundational to our Commonwealth and our country.

» Faith-based agencies provide vital services to our communities. They must be allowed to continue the great work they are doing.

Board Votes To Delay Adoption Regulations 30 Days, But No Change Is Expected

The Virginia Board of Social Services yesterday voted to delay the implementation of recently approved adoption regulations under the threat of costly litigation from the ACLU and Equality Virginia (see The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). In a not unexpected decision, the vote will allow for 30 days of additional comment, beginning September 12. As we noted yesterday, however, with Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposing the old proposed regulations on several grounds, opponents will only succeed in dragging out the process longer and perhaps set the stage for a legal action challenging Virginia law. In April, the VBSS voted 7-2 to adopt new regulations for Virginia's private adoption services. The regulations approved did not include a proposal that would have discriminated against faith-based adoption agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals. Despite having nearly two years to make their case through the regulatory process, organizations such as Equality Virginia and the ACLU claimed that the decision to not include the discriminatory language was done so without adequate information (see the AP via wral.com).

After losing the vote in April, Equality Virginia and the ACLU threatened to sue if they did not get an additional public comment period (see The Richmond Times-Dispatch). During the initial public comment time, more than 1,000 Virginians commented on the proposed regulations, with only around 30 in favor. On average, proposed regulations receive less than two dozen comments.

At yesterday's meeting, a host of representatives from the homosexual lobby spoke in favor of the additional comment period (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). Some of the speakers honestly stated that they believed allowing homosexuals to adopt should take precedence over the religious liberty rights of faith-based organizations.

When the comment period is opened we will encourage you to make your voice heard on this important issue. It is clear that homosexual groups intend to use the additional 30 days to get as much publicity as possible. We must make sure that the Board of Social Services hears from Virginians who believe in religious liberty.

Admin's notes: Family Foundation staff is quoted in every cited link in the post above. Please click those links to read further. In addition, we were cited on the National Organization For Marriage Blog (click here).

Also, Family Foundation Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund was featured in coverage from WTVR/CBS6 in Richmond (immediately below) and on Charlottesville's WVIR/NBC29 (click this link)

30 days more. The homosexual lobby and ACLU couldn't wait to slow down the process. 

Lawsuit Threatened In Adoption Regulations Battle

Today, the Virginia Board of Social Services is scheduled to consider a request by several homosexual activist groups to reopen its decision to protect the rights of private, faith-based adoption agencies. In April, the VBSS approved new regulations for adoption agencies that did not include a proposal that would have forced private, faith-based adoption agencies to adopt children into homes with co-habitating, unmarried couples. Unfortunately, homosexual activist groups are not satisfied with the nearly two-year regulatory process and 30-day public comment period already undertaken and are petitioning the VBSS for an additional 30 days of public comment, thus requiring a second, unnecessary vote. Oddly, groups like Equality Virginia and the ACLU that today are advocating for more public comment were silent for nearly two years as the regulations, stealthily proposed by former Governor Tim Kaine, went through the process. After losing the vote (7-2) in April, they suddenly are very interested in more time and another vote. Now they are threatening a costly, frivolous lawsuit if they don't get their way. It's also odd that they talk a lot about freedom, but they have no forcing private institutions into policies that run counter to their believes. Apparently, religious liberty isn't a freedom they choose to protect.

During the earlier comment period, only an approximate 30 of the 1,000-plus public comments were favorable toward adding restrictions on faith-based charities (see Washington Times). In 2002, the last year for which data is available, nearly 80 percent of adoptions in Virginia were facilitated by private organizations, nearly half of which are faith-based. Adding the restrictions advocated by Equality Virginia and the ACLU would seriously threaten the well-being of thousands of children awaiting adoption. Similar actions have forced charities to close their doors to children and families in other states.

Sadly, it appears that these organizations are more interested in advancing their political agenda than helping vulnerable children. Punishing the organizations that handle 80 percent of the adoptions in Virginia to advance a political agenda is punitive and harsh. The Board of Social Services, as well as the overwhelming majority of those in the public who commented, saw that and rejected the proposed regulation.

The Family Foundation will monitor the meeting today and comment if necessary. Regardless of the VBSS' decision on opening the public comment period again to avoid an unnecessary lawsuit, we don't anticipate a change in the final vote. The majority of Virginians have spoken in the previous public comment period, Governor Bob McDonnell has committed to protecting faith-based agencies (Richmond Times-Dispatch), and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Post) has made it clear that the proposed restrictions are unnecessary. Equality Virginia and the ACLU may get their press conference and media exposure, but we will fight for the children and families as well as religious liberty.

Religious Freedom In Virginia Adoption Protected, Sexual Orientation Not

Late this afternoon, the Virginia Board of Social Services voted 7-2 to accept new regulations for adoption agencies that do not include formerly proposed non-discrimination protections for homosexuals. This is a victory for religious liberty and means that faith-based adoption agencies can continue serving Virginia's children and families without being forced to violate their faith principles. The previously proposed regulations that included sexual behavior protections were replaced by Commissioner of Social Services Martin Brown after it came to light that adding sexual orientation to protected status would have been in conflict with existing federal and state law, and the Virginia Marriage Amendment. The attorney general's office issued a letter to the board informing it of the conflict and, acting on that advice, as well as public comment, the commissioner made the appropriate changes.

At the board meeting, representatives from The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities of Arlington, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, America World Adoption and Bethany Christian Services testified against the original proposal that would have forced faith-based adoption agencies to either ignore their faith principles regarding marriage and sexual behavior or stop serving families and children. Organizations that serve children and families provided particularly compelling testimony. Andrew Brown, of America World Adoption, said that making sexual behavior a protected class would decrease the number of loving families available to adopt wanted, parentless children by forcing faith-based adoption agencies out of business.

However, the vote did not come without debate, beginning this morning with a failed motion to postpone the vote until August and ending late today with arguments by proponents of the sexual orientation language that they had not had enough time to review the new regulations. Representatives of Equality Virginia, the Gay Community Center of Richmond, Mothers and Others, and other groups argued that faith-based organizations should not be allowed to "discriminate" by following their beliefs. But homosexuals in Virginia can adopt — they must go through state or non-faith-based private agencies.

The most vocal proponent of homosexual protections was social services board member Trudy Brisendine, who made the argument that she had not had time to review the new regulations. This despite the fact that the previous proposal had been initiated by outgoing Governor Tim Kaine in December of 2009 and that regulations had been open for public comment since January. She asked, embarrassingly, at one point how a "child placing agency" is defined, requiring the board's legal counsel to point out that the definition was on page two of the proposal. It is certainly concerning that someone who has the power to vote on regulations that oversee “child placing agencies” doesn't know how they are defined or had not read the proposal thoroughly to know the term was defined — and at the beginning of the proposal no less. While her lack of preparation most likely won't make the news, imagine if that question came from a pro-family board member.

We thank the seven board members who voted correctly, the McDonnell administration and the attorney general for their attention to this matter, Commissioner Brown, and our pro-family partners who have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks on this important issue.