SB 336, sponsored by Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Arlington, Fairfax), states “a person other than the spouse of a parent may adopt a child if the child has only one parent, the adoption would not terminate the parental rights of the parent, and the parent joins in the petition for the purpose of indicating his consent.”
A second bill, expected to have mirrored language, will enter the House via Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County). Yost’s office had not returned phone calls from GayRVA by press time, but Equality Virginia and an aid for Howell said the GOP Delegate had pledged his support for the measure.
Assembly members still have time to submit bills and the House version of the bill is excepted soon.
Richmond lawyer and adoption expert Colleen Quinn, one of the legal experts that helped draft the bill, said that Virgina’s incoming Democratic governance and polls that show a shift in public opinion, “the timing is good” to put the issue before the Assembly.
Quinn worked with EV and The Family Equality Council‘s Denise Brogan-Kator on the language of the bill.
“It’s written such that a person other than a parent of the child may adopt,” said Borgan-Kator. “As long as that child already has only one legal parent – it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight.”
“The purpose of this bill is to provide security and stability for children living in two-parent families already in VA, but are only able to have a legal relationship with one parent,” said Borgan-Kator
It’s possible for a single person, gay or straight, to adopt in the state of Virginia, but the partner, or unmarried significant other, lacks an avenue to gain parental rights. This bill would create a channel for such a second parent.
Adoption in Virginia for same-sex couples has its own challenges beyond the lack of marriage recognition.
The passage of HB 189, known as the Conscience Clause, in the 2012 session gave state-licensed and state-funded adoption and foster care agencies the right to legally deny services to children and prospective parents based on the groups religious or moral beliefs – for example, if a group disagreed with same-sex couples or didn’t approve of being LGBT, they could deny adoption based on this issue alone.
SB 336 and it’s unnumbered House counterpart will not change the process for agencies or affect the Conscience Clause, but they do offer hope to couples currently with children who are either unable to be married, or have chosen not to wed.