ACLU Tells State Social Services Board It May–and Should– Ban LGBT Discrimination by Private Adoption Agencies

Board members urged to ignore Attorney General’s warnings against proposed rules.

Richmond, VA– The ACLU of Virginia this week submitted comments to the State Board of Social Services urging its members to reinstate language in a proposed regulation that prevents state licensed adoption and foster care agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability, political beliefs and family status.

In August, ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia and at least 25 other individuals and groups sent letter letters to the Board of Social Services objecting to a last minute decision to drop proposed non-discrimination rules.

The decision to scrap the non-discrimination rules had come after the Commissioner for the Department of Social Services, apparently acting under a request from Governor Bob McDonnell, placed the recommendation before the Board. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also weighed in, informing the Board that it lacked the authority to ban religious groups from discriminating.

After receiving the 25-plus letters, the Board of Social Services, as required under Virginia law, re-opened the process to allow for extended public comment.

“We accomplished our goal of getting the process re-opened,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.  “And that resulted in an opportunity for the Board of Social Services to hear from voters across the state who support a LGBT non-discrimination policy for private adoption agencies.”

In addition to opposition from the Governor and the Attorney General, the Board of Social Services also received heavy lobbying against the non-discrimination proposal from some faith-based groups, which argued that they should be able to screen prospective parents based on their religious or moral beliefs.

The ACLU of Virginia’s comments submitted this week include a statement that private adoption agencies, including faith-based groups, should not be allowed to discriminate when they perform governmental function such as certifying adoptive parents or placing children with foster parents.

The ACLU’s comments, authored by Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg, may be found online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/20111013CommentsonAdoptionRegs.pdf.  The August letter asking for the delay of the regulations is at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/20110517ACLUAdoptionRegLtr.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022

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