‘Conscience Clause’ Goes Too Far

Richmond, Virginia — Feb. 8, 2012 — Today, Senator Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun) offered an amendment on the Senate floor to exempt children in foster care from Senate Bill 349, Senator McWaters’ proposed legislation that would authorize licensed, state-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate in making services available to children and prospective parents. The so-called ‘conscience clause’ proposed by Senator McWaters would permit child placement agencies to create arbitrary disqualifying guidelines based on “written religious or moral convictions or policies”. Disqualifying characteristics of the child or potential adoptive parents could include religious affiliation, marital status or sexual orientation.

 

Senator Favola said, “Foster children are Virginia’s children and the state should not be party to supporting discrimination in the placement of these children”.

 

“When a private organization, even a private religiously-affiliated organization, performs a quintessentially governmental function, including placing children with foster parents, it should do so in a non-discriminatory fashion. Having chosen to act in the state’s capacity, these agencies must be held to the same standard as if the state had itself performed the activities.” 

 

“This amendment would maintain a distance between Church and State relationships and always put the child first,” added Senator Favola. “Discrimination limits the pool of foster parents available to these vulnerable children who are in desperate need of homes. Allowing agencies to discriminate may result in a child losing a placement with the most suitable family.” 

 

UPDATE:

 

Richmond, Virginia — Feb. 21, 2012 — Today, Senator Barbara A. Favola spoke in the Senate Chamber against House Bill 189 before it passed the Senate. Delegate Todd Gilbert’s (R-15) proposed legislation is the House companion bill to Senator McWaters' Senate Bill 349. HB 189/ SB 349 would authorize licensed, state-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate in making services available to children and prospective parents. 

 

Senator Favola said, “The bill is far-reaching in the type of discrimination it allows. The fact of the matter is almost any reason could be used to discriminate, and the only protections that will remain will be federal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color or nation of origin. Should a child placement agency have a “moral conviction” that favors stay-at-home-moms over working women, or married couples over divorced individuals, that discrimination will be allowed under this legislation. And this is state-condoned discrimination, because these child-placement agencies operate on state dollars. But the real heartbreaker is, of the 1,500 children in foster care ready for adoption in 2010, only 10% were placed with families. When we see this legislation pass, that number will be further diminished.” 

 

IN THE MEDIA:

 

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said, “This bill is far reaching: not only will prospective LGBT parents will be affected, but any reason that a private agency comes up with could be used to discriminate against prospective parents. Agencies could discriminate against single parents, working mothers, or on the basis of religion. This bill allows the state to condone discrimination.”

 

— Agusta Free Press 2/22/2012

 

A "series of amendments by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington, Fairfax counties) would have removed "foster care children" from the bill, claiming that allowing agencies to discriminate may not be in the child's best interests. Favola referenced the possibility of a divorced nurse wanting to adopt a special needs child or a distant relative of a different faith wanting to adopt -- both of which would be prevented if an agency claimed a moral objection to such placement."


 Metro Weekly 2/8/2012


"Virginia senator Barbara Favola represents Arlingon, Fairfax and Loudoun counties—she is one of fie democrats who introduced amendments to the bill. 'Having chosen to act in the state's capacity, these agencies must be held to the same standard as if the state had itself performed the activities,' Favola said in a statement."

 

Channel 7 ABC Morning News 2/8/2012


"Arlington-based State Sen. Barbara Favola chimed in with a statement yesterday announcing an amendment to Senate Bill 349, a bill introduced by Republican State Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) that would authorize licensed, state-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate in making services available to children and prospective parents.

"Favola noted that the so-called 'conscious clause' proposed by McWaters would permit child placement agencies to create 'arbitrary disqualifying guidelines based on written religious or moral convictions or policies,' with such disqualifying characteristics including religious affiliation, marital status or sexual orientation.

Favola said, 'Foster children are Virginia's children and the state should not be a party to supporting discrimination in the placement of these children.'"

 

Falls Church News-Press 2/8/2012



"Sen. Barbara Favloa, D-Arlington, tried to exempt children in foster care from the bill.

 

“'When a private organization, even a private religiously-affiliated organization, performs a quintessentially governmental function, including placing children with foster parents, it should do so in a non-discriminatory fashion. Having chosen to act in the state’s capacity, these agencies must be held to the same standard as if the state had itself performed the activities,' Favola stated in a news release.

 

“'This amendment would maintain a distance between Church and State relationships and always put the child first. Discrimination limits the pool of foster parents available to these vulnerable children who are in desperate need of homes. Allowing agencies to discriminate may result in a child losing a placement with the most suitable family.'”


— Ballston-VirginiaSquare Patch 2/10/2012

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