Board allows more time for adoption-rule fight

The State Board of Social Services today voted to allow the public 30 days to comment on a decision made in April to drop language from a proposed regulation that would have prevented state licensed adoption and foster care agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability, political beliefs and family status.

The vote comes after the 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 at its meeting in April.

The decision to drop the non-discrimination proposal came after the Commissioner for the Department of Social Services, apparently acting under a request from Gov. Bob McDonnell, placed the recommendation before the Board.

“In April, the Board of Social Services acted too quickly and without appropriate public input,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Now there will be an opportunity for the Board to hear what citizens want-which is a non-discrimination policy.”

The Board received heavy lobbying against the proposed non-discrimination rule from some faith-based groups, which argued that they should be able to screen prospective parents based on their religious or moral beliefs doomed the proposal. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also weighed in, telling the Board that it lacked the authority to ban religious groups from discriminating.

The ACLU of Virginia, which has fought for the right of religious organizations to act on their religious beliefs, issued a statement noting that private adoption agencies, including faith-based groups, should not be allowed to discriminate when they perform “a quintessentially governmental function,” such as certifying adoptive parents or placing children with foster parents.

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