Op/Ed: If I Were an Adoption Agency, You Bet I’d Discriminate
If I were in charge of matchmaking families and children, I would not consider potential parents whose religious beliefs espouse the submission of women to men. If potential parents acknowledge being neo-fascist skinheads, I would not want to find a child for them to raise. In fact, if the decision were mine, I would not place any child in a family that teaches that homosexuality is an evil illness.
Since my criteria are based on religious and political discrimination, however, new proposed regulations would not allow me or any agency to exercise judgment on those issues. I would be forced to match children with sexist, bigoted, closed-minded parents, as long as other parenting criteria were sufficient.
From Monday, September 12, 2011 through October 11, 2011, the Virginia State Board of Social Services is giving the public 30 days to comment on its decision to strip legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, disability, political beliefs and family status from final rules governing state-licensed adoption and foster care agencies. In other words, if the proposal goes through, no agency can discriminate based on those criteria or others (race, national origin and ethnicity).
These standards for licensed private child-placing agencies do not address the legality of gays adopting, simply about whether individual agencies can choose to work with them or not.
Many gay and lesbian couples make great parents and others should be able to adopt. Will changing the agency regulations in Virginia help to achieve that goal? Like many political issues, the answer may not be as simple as it seems.
It seems logical that these agencies should not be allowed to discriminate because they are acting, in essence, as representatives of the government. Any organization that facilitates an adoption process must be licensed by the state. It’s clear—legally and morally—that the government should not discriminate in a rights-respecting democracy such as the United States. Therefore, any agency that is acting under state licensure and even using government money cannot and should not discriminate.
Yet, on the other hand, is it right to force an organization and the people who support it to act against their religious and moral beliefs? Should a fundamentalist organization be forced to place a child with a gay couple? Should an equality-minded organization be forced to place a child with a pair of bigots displaying a Confederate flag and a “God hates fags” sign?
There are problems in the system, but I’m not sure that forcing faith-based organizations to act against their beliefs—no matter how much we disagree with them—is the answer. The proposal does not address the problem that a loving, committed gay or lesbian couple cannot adopt in Virginia. That problem arises because unmarried couples (straight or gay) can’t adopt and same-sex marriage is illegal, and that problem should be addressed, elsewhere.
Other solutions may address the real problems without forcing the religious groups to act against their beliefs or have to exit the adoption service altogether. Perhaps agencies could be able to work with whichever parents they choose—but these “discriminating” agencies would never receive government (i.e., taxpayer) money. Conservative agencies could represent conservative adopting parents and birthmothers, while equality-minded agencies could represent LGBT individuals and others who recognize that discrimination based on inconsequential criteria such as sexual orientation is anti-child. And the final decision rendered by the judge—the government’s representative—should never be based on discrimination. If there are problems with judges discriminating, that issue should be dealt with appropriately.
On the activist side, those of us who believe in equality can support those agencies that will ensure that children find homes with parents who are qualified to love them and provide for them—based on criteria that count.
The ongoing fight against discrimination and hatred is essential, but in a nation based on individual rights, one that recognizes freedom of religion, we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can work to ensure that our government is free from discrimination, continuing to support gay marriage, so gay couples have the same benefits as straight couples, including adoption. We can work to change all current laws that support unequal legal treatment of LGBTQ individuals—but always without violating the rights of others.
Change must happen, and let’s make changes as we can, always based on the principles of individual rights—for all.
You can view and make comments through October 11, 2011 at Town Hall Virginia. Click on the public comment forum section and go to “Minimum Standards for Licensed Private Child-Placing Agencies (DSS).”
Views reflected in Op/Ed pieces do not necessarily reflect those of GayRVA.com. Photo courtesy of Human Rights Campaign.
Annie Tobey is a freelance writer and editor living in Richmond, Virginia. For six years, she’s shared her philosophical passions through V Magazine for Women, combining love for life, the diversity of women, and a celebration of success in all its forms, on the printed page and online, now at www.MyVMagazine.com. She also shares her joie de vivre as a travel writer at www.ActiveWomanTraveler.com. She welcomes freelance opportunities for writing and editing, helping businesses present a polished written message that builds a quality brand. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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