Last edited: December 07, 2004

Lesbian Wins Virginia Assurances in Adoption Attempt

Agencies to Be Given Directive

Washington Post, 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 agency.

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 applicants."

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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