RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Senate voted 22-18 on Thursday to approve a bill that would allow private adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement of children based on religious or moral beliefs, including disapproval of homosexuality.
The action by the Senate, which fell mostly along partisan lines, came one week after the state’s House of Delegates approved an identical bill.
With Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell saying he planned to sign the legislation if it came to him, the bill is certain to become law.
“This bill authorizes every one of the 80 private adoption agencies licensed in Virginia to refuse to offer their services to any GLBT person based on a written moral policy, which they can make up tomorrow,” said State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria and Fairfax), who is gay.
“The bill says they can do that no matter how qualified the prospective mom and dad is to become a parent,” said Ebbin in an impassioned floor speech urging his colleagues to vote against the bill.
All 20 Republicans in the chamber voted for the bill, with two conservative-leaning Democrats, Sen. Charles Colgan of Prince William County and Sen. Phillip Puckett of Russell County joining Republicans to vote for the measure.
The bill, SB 349, became known as the “conscience clause” bill because supporters say it would protect the religious rights of faith based adoption and foster placement agencies, many of whom are funded by the state.
Ebbin and other opponents of the bill said that although it doesn’t say so directly, they believe it is aimed mostly at allowing adoption agencies to turn away LGBT people as adoptive or foster parents.