Yesterday was Valentine's Day, a day when we celebrate our love for one another, whether it is between significant others, class mates, or a child and their parents. Growing up, I always received a small box of chocolates on Valentine's Day from my parents. I looked forward to those chocolates every year, not just for the sweet treat, but because of the love I felt from my parents. In a small way, it reflected the love my family shared for each other.
This love is something every child should have the opportunity to feel. Sadly, there are 107,000 children in the foster care system nationwide who are waiting to be adopted and wanting to feel the love of a "forever family." Despite the desperate need for more families who are willing to open their hearts and homes to these children, many qualified families are arbitrarily turned away on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
Most recently, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law, which the governor is expected to sign, which would allow private, state-licensed adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on their sexual orientation, religion or other bases that may be contrary to the adoption agency's religious tenets. These practices are particularly harmful to the children in the foster care and adoption systems.
Currently, only six states explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the adoption process, leaving children and families vulnerable to the potential biases of individual case workers and judges. No child should be denied the right to be a part of a family based on the sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of their prospective parent(s). With 27,000 children leaving foster care without ever finding a permanent and loving home, we should not have policies that prevent qualified and loving individuals from opening their hearts and homes to these children, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The ACLU has succeeded in challenging discriminatory adoption laws in Florida and Arkansas, but a broader solution is necessary. Today, the ACLU sent a letter to the Senate urging support for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. This legislation would prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved. It would remove discriminatory adoption policies and allow qualified and caring families to welcome these children into permanent, safe, and stable homes. It is time for all children to be able to feel the love of a family that I felt every Valentine's Day from my own parents.