Two Senate Democrats prevented a split party-line vote and helped pass a bill that opponents say infringes on the right of gays and lesbians to adopt children in Virginia. The conscience clause, which now moves to the House, would prevent a private agency from being forced to place a child in foster care or adoptive home if the agency believes the placement would conflict with its written religious or moral convictions.
The Senate spent two days debating the legislation and proposing amendments. Senator 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.
Ebbin and several other senators asked their colleagues to vote against the measure. The bill’s sponsor, Senator 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. Senators Charles Colgan and Phillip Puckett were the only two Democrats who voted for the bill.