Lesbian Wins Virginia Assurances in Adoption Attempt
Agencies to Be Given Directive
August 15, 2002
1150 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20071
By Tom Jackman, Washington Post Staff Writer
An Arlington woman who claimed that Virginia would not allow her to adopt a
foster child because she is a lesbian has won assurances from the state that
her application will be fairly considered, and Virginia social services
agencies will soon receive a memo telling them to consider only the best
interests of the child in reviewing a potential foster parent.
Virginia’s move came as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed in
December by Linda Kaufman, an Episcopal priest who has adopted one child.
Although she had been approved by both a private adoption agency in Virginia
and officials in the District, where more than 1,000 children await placement,
she said the Virginia Department of Social Services had delayed her
application for two years because she is a lesbian.
Virginia doesn’t specifically prohibit adoptions by homosexuals, and
Kaufman said all she wanted was the guarantee that state social services
officials would follow the law. Her lawsuit, filed by the gay rights group
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, alleged that state officials were
sitting on her application because of their personal views. Kaufman said that
state officials faxed a copy of Virginia’s sodomy law to her adoption
The settlement states that if no new information comes to light in an
update of Kaufman’s file, her application to adopt a child from the District
shall be approved. The state also agreed to make an "individualized
determination in evaluating" each foster parent’s application, and that
social services’ consideration of the application "will be limited to
whether the proposed placement is contrary to the interests of that
child." A memo from Ray C. Goodwin, acting commissioner of Virginia’s
Department of Social Services, repeating those terms is to be sent to all
local social services and child placement agencies.
"I’m thrilled that the state is willing to accept my
application," said Kaufman, who is director of homeless services for the
Downtown DC Business Improvement District. She said Virginia was being careful
not to cite gays for special treatment. But, Kaufman added, "anyone who
looks at this memo [from Goodwin] will know you have to consider all
Bernie McNamee, chief counsel to the Virginia attorney general, said he
considered the settlement "a victory for Virginia. Nothing in Virginia
law is required to be changed, and the practices already established in the
law will be followed."
McNamee said state agencies "will continue to look at the interests of
the child, in consideration of the totality of the circumstances."
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