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Virginia Legislature Approves 'Conscience Clause' On Gay Adoption

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The bill allowing discrimination against same-sex couples by adoption agencies passed the Virginia House and Senate, and awaits the governor's signature.
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The bill allowing discrimination against same-sex couples by adoption agencies passed the Virginia House and Senate, and awaits the governor's signature.

Legislation allowing private adoption agencies in Virginia to discriminate against gay prospective parents is on its way to the governor, who has said he will sign it.

Under federal law, state-funded adoption agencies are prohibited from denying child-placements based on race, color, or national origin. Virginia allows adoption by single adults of any sexual orientation and married couples, but not same-sex-couples.

Senator Frank Wagner said the bill protects the religious expression of faith-based organizations: "It deals with those private child-placing agencies under contract to the Department of Social Services for child-placing and conscience clauses within thereabout, not forcing them to go against their consciences."

Under the bill, a private agency would not be required to counsel or assist in placing a child for adoption or foster care if it violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions. Bill opponent Senator Mark Herring said agencies that contract with the state should make decisions based on the best interest of the child.

"We had 5,327 children in our foster care system," says Herring. "And each and every one of those children ought to expect that we are doing everything we reasonably can to find the best home for them based on their own individual needs, not the needs of the placing agency."

If signed by the Governor, the bill would take effect July 1.

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