Northern Virginians Call for Eliminating Discrimination in the Adoption Process
Del. Adam Ebbin, adoptive parents, adoption agencies and others call on Gov. McDonnell to recommend changes to current regulations
A group of Northern Virginians on Wednesday called for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the state Board of Social Services to make it easier for gay, lesbian and unmarried couples to adopt children.
Representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual civil rights organization, along with Virginia Del. Adam Ebbin, Equality Virginia, Adoptions Together and parents spoke at a Thursday morning event urging changes to current state law.
Greg Greeley of Alexandria said he was rejected by dozens of adoption agencies in his quest to adopt a child as a single, gay man. When he finally found an agency, they said he had to go to Russia to adopt and couldn’t adopt in Virginia.
“I now have a son who is 10 years old but he’d love to have a brother, maybe two. Our hope is that when it’s time to get a brother for Kolya, we’d like to get one from Virginia,” said Greeley at the event held in a conference room at the City of Alexandria’s Office of Human Rights.
The State Board of Social Services is considering proposed regulations that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation but not marital status. Gov. McDonnell has said he opposes the proposal.
Current Virginia law allows for sexual orientation discrimination in private adoption agencies licensed by the state. Additionally, unmarried couples can be denied the ability to adopt a child and the state cannot provide any relationship recognition for same-sex couples as a result of the 2006 Marshall-Newman amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
The speakers called for the governor to recommend and the state board to enact the regulations, but also to go further by proposing a law making the best interest of the child the sole basis for adoption, not whether someone is gay or whether two adults are married.
John Solomonese, HRC President for the Alexandria and Richmond areas, said, “Today we’re asking McDonnell to put Virginia’s children first,” adding that there are 1,000 children in Virginia waiting to be matched with a parent.
“By ending discrimination against gays and lesbians…We can open hundreds if not thousands of homes,” he said. “Sexual orientation plays no role in an ability to raise children.”
He added that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports legislation allowing same-sex couples to adopt.
Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) said, “It would be a tragedy to deny these children a home.”
Ebbin said he plans to “explore” crafting legislation that would allow adoption to proceed if it’s in the best interest of a child, but said he was waiting to see what action the state board will take.
“Adoption is a personal act of love, that’s what needs to be focused on, not the politics, that’s what will guide my decisions legislatively," he said.
Equaility Virginia Board Member Lawrence Webb, who also sits on the Falls Church City Council, said he and his partner have been having conversations about adoption, “but we know that will be a difficult task in Virginia.”
Janice Goldwater, the founder and executive director of Adoptions Together, which is licensed in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., recounted the story of one family of Virginians who rented out their house and moved to Maryland to adopt. They plan to return to Virginia when their family further expands through additional adoptions.
“When a family from Virginia calls we say please move to Maryland or D.C.,” said Goldwater. “Who are we turning away? We’re turning away parents of all races, parents who are police officers, teachers, medical professionals, mature loving stable adults in Virginia.”
The governor has until Saturday to make his recommendations on the matter.