Legislation to add a conscience clause to the state law on adoptions placed by private organizations has passed the Virginia Senate and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill would also prohibit the state or localities from denying the private agencies any contracts because they object to some adoptions on religious grounds.
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,” said Wagner.
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. 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,” said Herring.
If signed by the Governor, the bill would take effect July 1st.
–Anne Marie Morgan