WASHINGTON -- Last week, Virginia's Board of Social Services was scheduled to be briefed on the more than 2,500 public comments on proposed regulations that would bar private child-placement agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or family status.
The briefing didn't happen.
The proposed rules -- which would not affect a law barring adoptions by unmarried cohabitating adults of any sex -- are supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Equality Virginia and dozens of other groups. They are opposed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and religious groups.
Eileen Guertler, the social services board's director of public affairs and citizen services, said December is now the soonest the board might take up the proposed regs. Guertler had earlier told The Huffington Post that the board would be briefed at its October meeting.
"The next VA Board of Social Services meeting is scheduled for December 14-15 in Richmond area," she wrote in an email. "Hopefully, they will be provided the written comments before their December meeting."
James Parrish, executive director of the gay advocacy group Equality Virginia, said there might be a sunny side to the board not receiving the briefing in October.
"We would look at it maybe that there were just so many comments that they are doing a thorough job of reviewing them before they present the summary to the board," Parrish said. "I don't think it's a good sign. But maybe they're just doing a very thorough job."
If the board doesn't take up the rules in December, he added, that would "raise a flag as to why this process isn't being carried through."
Lawrence Webb, a member of the Falls Church City Council and an Equality Virginia board member, said that flag has already been raised. No briefing in October signals to him that the board has already made up its mind not to extend anti-discrimination protections to prospective adoptive parents who are gay. Indeed, he said, these rules -- much less broader protections -- may not be implemented until after the 2013 gubernatorial election.
"For big issues like this, I think there is going to have to be a change in administration," Webb said. "I plan to make it well-known to the community that this is what we want and deserve. I definitely will be looking at candidates who will be supportive of giving the same rights to gay couples, as well as to couples who happen not to be married," to adopt children.
Representatives of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and the Virginia Catholic Conference, two groups that oppose the proposed regulations, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE: 2:41 p.m. -- Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, told The Huffington Post in an email that he's fine with the legal status quo. "We are confident that the Board fully understands and appreciates our concerns," he wrote, "and will continue to preserve the religious freedom of faith-based agencies that contribute so much to the fabric of our Commonwealth."
UPDATE: 4:33 p.m. -- Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, said in an email, "Catholic Charities supports the wording of the current Virginia adoption regulations. The current regulations are in the best interest of families and birth parents and uphold the religious freedom which safeguards the work of faith-based organizations." He added, "Pressure to include items in the adoption regulations that would force some faith-based adoption agencies to defy their consciences and creeds would be a clear violation of one of our most treasured freedoms."
WATCH a Family Equality Council video in support of gay adoption:
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