Friday, April 22, 2011

Adoption Discrimination--Roanoke Times Raises Important Questions about Broader Implications of Recent State Action

Interesting that none of the stories about the State Board of Social Services' action on the adoption rules focused on the larger questions raised by the decision to strip out of the nondiscrimination rules, not only protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation but also stripped protections against discrimination based on gender, religion, disability, age, family status and political beliefs.

Shouldn't all of us be talking about the implications of policies of some faith based adoption agencies who said during the public comment period on the rules and in written comments filed with the agency that they refuse (or want to be able to refuse) to place children with families of other faiths?

Is it an act of charity or an act of institutional self-preservation or proselytization for a faith-based adoption agency to require a pledge of faith to use their adoption services?

Is this an act in the best interests of the child they are placing or of the placing agency?

And, since the courts must approve every adoption, isn’t their discriminatory policy actually being effected by the state, rather than by a private party?

The Roanoke Times has begun the debate.

I hope it continues.

Gays were the focus of debate, but proposed adoption regulations went much further.

Roanoke Times Editorial, April 23, 2011

On Wednesday, the Virginia Board of Social Services, at the urging of Gov. Bob McDonnell, chose not to grant equality to unmarried couples and gay Virginians in the adoption process. Private adoption agencies may continue to discriminate against them. Loving homes will remain largely unavailable for kids in search of a family.

The debate leading up to the decision framed things primarily as a gay rights issue, but there was much more to it. The proposed regulations also would have made gender, age, religion, political beliefs, disability and family status non-issues in adoption.

The opposition primarily came from religious-based adoption agencies whose faith tells them gays are unfit parents.

Current regulations say only race, color or national origin may not be considered by agencies, no matter their religious teachings. Those rules exist for the simple reason that race should have nothing to do with adoption, even if in some twisted way one claims that religion demands it. A black parent should be able to adopt a white child from any agency; a white parent, an Asian child; and so on.

An adoption agency's faith tradition might also dictate that people of another religion are unfit parents. Maybe Democrats, too, or Republicans. People who vote for pro-choice candidates. People in wheelchairs. All remain viable, albeit distasteful, reasons an adoption agency might cite to reject parents. Yet because those groups' interests were caught up in a broader gay-rights fight, they too will continue to be potential objects of discrimination.

When it comes to finding good families for children, sexual orientation, faith, politics and all the rest have no place in the discussion. The surprising thing was not that the governor chose not to extend equal rights to gay people, but that he did not get behind the rest of the changes.

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