HRC & Others To McDonnell: “Put Children First”
On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign joined child welfare professionals and elected leaders in asking Governor Bob McDonnell to support policy changes that would prevent discrimination of same-sex couples adopting or fostering children.
“Today we are asking Bob McDonnell and the Department of Social Services to put children first and stop discriminating against Virginia’s parents,” HRC president Joe Solmonese (pictured) said. “The time for politics is over. The law is failing these children.”
He highlighted organizations that support same-sex couples adopting including the American Academy of Pediatrics among others.
“The list goes on and one. We have thirty years of research and child-welfare experts on the side of Virginia’s children,” he said. “We can open hundreds if not thousands of loving homes to children that need them. Sexual orientation plays no role in the ability to raise children.”
Equality Virginia joined HRC at the press conference. Executive Director James Parrish shared the organization’s support for the proposed revisions.
“While we support publishing the policy as final rule, we recognize those rules will not fix what EV and its members consider fundamental flaws in Virginia’s laws.”
The 2006 Marshall-Newman Act prevented same-sex couples from entering a legally binding relationship. Currently in Virginia, a single person or a married couple can adopt, but not a same-sex couple.
Claire Gastañaga, EV’s general counsel added that it would take an additional change in law and step backwards to prevent single people from adopting. If a gay couple were to adopt under current law even with the policy change, it would be a single person that is still legally and financially recognized as the parent.
“I don’t want people to mistake the fact, if we come out of this process that gay people cannot adopt, we would have taken a step back,”Gastañaga said.
As a single gay person looking to adopt, there are still challenges according to HRC Family Project director Ellen Kahn.
“Agencies can still discriminate or be unkind, but legally, you have the opportunity,” she said.
Kahn said her office has been working closely with child welfare agencies across the country on their “All Children. All Families.” campaign.
“Since we started the campaign, what we hear over and over again is there are not enough families coming forward to adopt from foster care,” she said. ”Not only do these children carry scars with them for not having the experience of a family, but they struggle with employment and homelessness.”
Kahn added that Florida’s ban on adoption was recently considered unconstitutional.
“They looked at the law through the lens of children,” Kahn said. “It puts a barrier on these youth that have the right to have a family. The tide has been moving in the world of child welfare.”
John Dougherty, the Vice President of Business Development for the Virginia Home For Boys & Girls, spoke from the perspective of a gay man with children. Dougherty shares the responsibility of raising his partner’s biological children who are seven and 11-years old.
“We need to give every open heart the opportunity to give a stable and loving environment for these children to thrive,” he said.
“While some conservative agencies have their beliefs, the majority of agencies welcome all families. Our job is to put these children in homes and get them the support they need.”
While today’s press conference focused on garnering Bob McDonnell’s support, it is the Board of Social Services that will have final say over the policy.
The board meets on April 20 and may have their revised policy changes on the agenda. Before that meeting McDonnell will present his comments to the board regarding the policy changes.
If the board publishes the new policies in final form, a request can still be made for the process to be reopened. If the revisions are published, the Governor also has the ability to suspend the policy for a period of time.
“Our responsibility here is compelling them to be on the right side of history on this issue,” Solmonese said.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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