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Opponents Say New Virginia Bill Violates Gay Rights

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The Virginia Senate passed legislation that opponents say infringes on the rights of gays and lesbians who want to adopt children. And their vote, allowing private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their beliefs, virtually ensures the Republican-backed bill will become law.

The Senate spent two days debating the legislation and proposing amendments. Sen. Adam Ebbin, who is openly gay, argued prior to the vote that passing this bill is a step to the far right, and ultimately, the wrong direction.

"This bill authorizes every one of the 80 private adoption agencies licensed in Virginia, to refuse to offer their services to any GLBT person based on a written moral policy, which they can make up tomorrow," says Ebbin.

Ebbin and several other senators asked their colleagues to vote against the measure. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff McWaters, countered that the conscience clause protects the religious rights of private organizations. He also said the bill is consistent with current Virginia and federal law and does not change current state policy, but simply codifies it. Sens. Charles Colgan and Phillip Puckett were the only two Democrats who voted for the bill.

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