Virginia's Social Services Board has finalized by a 5-1 vote the latest regulations for the state's adoption and foster care system -- and they don't include the anti-discrimination language gay-rights groups wanted. This week marks the second time this year the board has decided against the including the anti-discrimination language.
After an initial vote in April, the board decided to reopen the topic for public comment after activists demanded the language be included. It would have prohibited state-licensed adoption agencies from discriminating against couples based on sexual orientation, disability, national origin and political beliefs when determining child placement.
Emily Hecht-McGowan, with the nonprofit group Family Equality, says she's disappointed that the social services board rejected the new language, because she says it means Virginia isn't likely to improve it's poor record of placing children with families.
"They just don't have enough available parents in their system in Virginia, who are willing to take kids in their foster care system," Hecht-McGowan says. "They have one of the worst placement rates in the country."
The decision is a victory for conservative Christian groups who argued that the language would force faith-based adoption agencies to choose between upholding their beliefs and providing services. They said it would be an egregious violation of religious liberty.
In 2010, data gathered by the Council on Virginia's Future found that children who've lost their parents spend an average of 18 months in foster care -- longer than any other state.