Virginia lawmakers move to cut state funding for adoption agencies that refuse LGBTQ couples

Virginia lawmakers move to cut state funding for adoption agencies that refuse LGBTQ couples
Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria. (Source: Ned Oliver / Virginia Mercury)

Virginia lawmakers are on the verge of rolling back a state law that allows faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ families.

The legislation has spurred heated debate, with representatives of Catholic charitable organizations arguing that being forced to serve gay couples would violate their faith and civil rights advocates decrying the existing rules as state-sanctioned discrimination.

“To say that we can’t place children because they’re in gay families, and therefore they have to age out of the foster care system and not have a loving home, is cruel to these children,” said Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, who proposed the repeal.

Virginia was the second state in the country to add what lawmakers called a “conscience clause” to its adoption laws in 2012 — language that guarantees religious adoption and foster care agencies the right to refuse any placement that “would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

Republican lawmakers, who then controlled the General Assembly and executive branch, passed the law a year after an unsuccessful push by LBGTQ groups to get the state’s social services board to revoke licenses from providers that engage in discrimination.

Now that Democrats control the legislature, some are ready to revisit the decision. A full repeal proposed by Levine passed the House on a party-line vote early this month.

Democrats in the Senate, however, said last week they are less comfortable with the measure, passing an amended version that would allow the groups to continue operating under the current rules, but cut state funding that helps finance their operations.