Ebbin Fighting Against Same-Sex Adoption Discrimination

by ARLnow.com February 6, 2012 at 9:45 am 3,738 39 Comments

(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) is decrying legislation that he says will codify discrimination against same-sex couples seeking to adopt a child.

A bill that was introduced by Rep. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) inserts a “conscience clause” into the Virginia law concerning private adoption and foster care agencies.

“No private child-placing agency shall be required to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would conflict with the religious tenets of any sponsor of the agency or other organization or institution with which the child-placing agency is affiliated or associated,” the bill reads. It also says that adoption agencies cannot be held liable for civil damages as a result of denying the placement of a child.

Ebbin says the clause is discriminatory.

“Adoption and foster care agencies that receive state funding should not be allowed to pick prospective parents based on their sexual orientation,” Ebbin said. “Adoption is a public act that goes through state courts, and no government agency should ever engage in discrimination. When placing a child in a permanent home, the only factor we should take into account is what is best for the child.”

Ebbin tried to patron a bill, SB 569, that would have banned discrimination on the basis of “race, religion, national origin, sex, age, family status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity” among adoption and foster care agencies that receive state funds. The bill failed to make it out of a Senate committee.

The conscience clause bills, meanwhile, are advancing. On Friday Gilbert’s bill passed the House by a vote of 71-28, and McWaters’ bill has passed a Senate committee by a vote of 8-7.

  • Wiz

    What is a “conscious clause”? I take that to mean “Santa has not yet passed out from drinking too much egg nog”.

    Shouldn’t they be talking about a “conscience clause”?

    • bobco85

      This article has the wrong word used. On the LIS site (the link for the bill), the bill has the word “conscience” used. ArlNow should correct this error.

    • G Clifford Prout

      Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a sanity clause.

  • novasteve

    This is a toughie. I hate to agree with liberals on issues, however forcing a religious organization to do something against their beliefs is also a violation of the 1st amendment. So long as there are organizations that will allow same sex couples to adopt then suggesting violating the first amendment is a pretty dangerous idea. However if religious organizations were the only option, then I would be more sympathetic to the libs.

    • Josh S

      Most people just agree with ideas that they find agreeable. I don’t think it matters whether there is a label attached to the group that the idea is associated with.

      Cause otherwise, it’s just another form of bigotry.

    • Terry

      Right, and some religious believe in sacrificing humans. Tough to force them to stop! Wouldn’t want to offend the religious people.

      • Terry


    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      @Novasteve – if they were not benefiting from the feds (i.e., tax exempt) then I might agree with you. However, if they want to deicriminate they should do it without the aid of the federal government.

    • BoredHouseWife

      well polgamy is illegal.

  • MC 703

    Acrimonious government intervention at its finest.

    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      The government has a right to intervene when it is subsidizing the organization through tax exempt status. Would you feel the same way if the organization refused to place kids up for adoption to African American families?

      • MC 703

        I was referring to the original bill introduced with the “conscience clause” in it.

        I applaud Ebbin.

  • YTK

    Thank you Adam!!!

  • bobco85

    The catalyst for this bill is most likely the recent incidents regarding Catholic Charities in both DC and Illinois where each chose to shut down because they did not want to comply with anti-discrimination regulations due to new laws regarding same-sex couples being passed (marriage in DC, civil unions in Illinois). This could also affect other people (mixed faith couple, single parent, divorced parent, person of different/no faith).

    I object to this bill on multiple levels. As an atheist, I disagree with giving organizations religious exemptions to laws. As a bisexual, I reject that this bill will allow discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    I think the bill will pass and later be overturned by the courts.

  • FunnyMunny

    Based on the Planned Parenthood debacle, it sounds like the religious right is making a full sideways assault on all sorts of fronts. Finding loopholes to push their agendas and “hiring” legislators to carry out their plans.

    • Burger

      Curious…so a private entity shouldn’t be allowed to use its funds in a manner must conducive to their goals? In other words, Komen should continue to provide a grant to Planned Parenthood in perpetuity regardless if that grant is efficiently used?

      • AllenB

        The Komen decisions were the result of two things – rightwing politics and naivete.

        • Burger

          So, an institution that is dedicated to the preservation of life might have an issue with another organization, wherein part of it is pro-choice. Given money is fungible – indirectly, Komen was funding abortions. I can see where that could be an issue.

          But, you didn’t answer my question.

          • AllenB

            Private entities can do what they want with their funds (as long as it’s legal). But the agencies in question are partially government funded and therefore should not be allowed to discriminate.

            As for Komen, yes they can do what they can change their criteria when they want to. But was a question of transparency and quite frankly, pissing off their donor base. No one said what Komen did was illegal – just incredibly myopic and dumb.

            And it’s your interpretation that Komen was indirectly funding abortions – just your opinion, not based in fact.

          • SoMuchForSubtlety


          • Burger

            Go look up what fungible means? PP’s basic function is contraception and providing pro-choice alternatives to woman…which is completely fine and something I agree with.

            However, Komen’s money was indirectly funding abortions…based on that meant less money PP needed to allocate to screening services which means more for PP’s contraception services.

          • AllenB

            You’re kind of contradicting yourself – if, as you say, that contraception and abortion are primary for PP, then they would fund that first, and only do other things if money allows (contributions from Komen)

            But you’re also saying that the more they get for screening (from Komen), the more they can free up for contraception and abortion, meaning that screening is primary and gets funded first.

            Which one is it?

      • Loocy

        But the grants were being efficiently used. PP was a very effective partner in reaching the women who most needed the subsidized/free screening programs and referrals for mammograms. Neither Komen nor any other providers have the kind of presence that PP has in those communities. Part of the outrage was exactly that — this was precisely what the funds should be used for, the program was very effective by all accounts, and the announcement was pure partisan politics.

  • pflagmom

    As I understand it, the bill that passed the house also says that if these faith based organizations don’t spend all of their government funds (taxpayer $$) for the care and placement of children, those remaining funds can be used to further the religious missions of these organizations. The leftover $$ is not required to be returned to the state or restricted foster care or adoption. So, not only will we taxpayers be paying these organizations to discriminate, but we will be directly funding their religious activities. Hope I got this wrong!

    Thank you, Adam Ebbin, for standing up for fairness.

  • SoMuchForSubtlety

    Whatever happened to the goal of placng children in the best place for the child according to the best interests of the child? I gues it’s now going to be placing the child according to best interests of fill in the blank religious organization and f the children.

  • Max

    Seems like if these charities had any conscience they would refuse government funds.

    • Garden City

      That’s just it. They have no conscience. They want both taxpayer funding and the ability to discriminate against individuals if they aren’t the right kind of taxpayer.

      • WeiQiang

        … but we’ll still take that kind of taxpayers’ money.

  • nunya

    they’ve released the hounds. checking parked cars….

  • R. Griffon

    > From the bill: “No private child-placing agency shall be required…”

    I’d actually be OK with this, as long as there is also a section defining “private child-placing agencies” as those who do not receive ANY funding from public sources. Not one dollar. Discrimination is terrible IMHO, but I think you have to let PRIVATE agencies facilitate adoptions the way they want, so long as their placement is healthy for the children.

    So, for example, a catholic adoption agency can allow adoptions to Catholic families only, so long as they do NOT use any public funding.

    • Max

      In theory that’s fine, but I would point out that it’s illegal for a religious school to discriminate who they can teach. They simply can’t reject someone because of their race, etc. Granted, there have been Supreme Court decisions about this specific issue, not on adoption.

    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      The real legal and moral crux is the “best interests of the child” standard. Period. So if an agency keeps bouncing a kid from foster parent to foster parent, or can’t otherwise place a troubled child (i.e., physically or mentally disabled, etc.) rather than placing the child in a stable home environmnet because of religious views, then they are more interested in their subjective personal beliefs than the children’s objective needs and therefore have no right directing the fate of said children.

  • Max

    It just occurred to me that this could allow charities to discriminate on the basis of anything, including race. It could be illegal for a black couple to adopt a white boy. It could prevent a catholic couple from adopting a child from a Jewish adoption agency. This sickens me. Virginia has failed us.

    • Virginia

      Sorry I failed you, Max.

  • Hattie McDaniel

    Do Catholic adoption agencies refuse to allow couples to adopt if one or both of the parents have been divorced? Just wondering…

  • TooEasy

    Odd , most couples I know did the artificial insemination route seems to be making a boogy man of nothing.
    The Post even had an article about a couple who used a hispanic donor.

  • Sen. Ebbin – Thank you for your courage. I support you.

  • WeiQiang

    All this churn in the comments and I’m pressed to find anyone wondering how this crappy law is going to affect the actual adoption and fostering of kids in need. Then again, the legislature isn’t concerned about that much, either.

    Given that gay potential adopters will likely have an idea of which organizations are generally supportive of their desire to adopt, this law appears to be more kabuki to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Looks like more empty calories to placate the “sponsors” and “affiliated” religious organizations.

  • charles

    Thank you, Adam. You’ve got my vote.


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