In Far Reaching Lawsuit Settlement, Virginia Lets Lesbian Adopt D.C. Foster Child

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Agreement stops state from barring other gay adoption applications
August 14, 2002

(ARLINGTON, VA, Wednesday, August 14, 2002) -- A lesbian Episcopal priest in Northern Virginia will be able to adopt another foster child from the District of Columbia - and Virginia child placement officials will no longer bar such adoptions based on the parents’ sexual orientation - under a lawsuit settlement made public today. As a result of the settlement, lead counsel Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund today filed papers in state court to dismiss the lesbian mother’s lawsuit.

Linda Kaufman adopted a then-5-year-old D.C. foster child in 1992, and has been trying to adopt a sibling for him since 1999. A Virginia adoption agency and D.C. officials determined that she is well qualified to provide a home for a second child - but Virginia officials refused to approve the adoption placement because Kaufman is a lesbian. Kaufman works in Washington, D.C., but lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her partner, Liane Rozzell.

“This is a common-sense settlement that puts the focus of adoption back where it belongs -- on the kids,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Greg Nevins, who argued Kaufman’s case in state court. “Today’s settlement isn’t only a victory for Linda’s family - it’s a beacon of hope for some of the 1,016 children in foster care in D.C. who are waiting to be adopted.”

Under the settlement, signed by Kaufman and state officials, Kaufman is clear to begin the process of adopting another D.C. foster child. Virginia’s Dept. of Social Services will also send its local departments and agencies a directive instructing that consideration of all applications for adopting out-of-state children “will be limited to whether the proposed placement is contrary to the interests of that child.” The directive also says that “there are no absolute barriers” to potential adoptions. Previously, Virginia officials refused to consider applications from gay men and lesbians.

Kaufman said she will immediately begin the process of adopting another child. “These kids need a loving, stable, permanent home, which is what my family provides,” Kaufman said. “This settlement is what I’ve wanted all along - for my application to be processed and assessed like all the others, and for kids who badly need homes to have that chance.”

Like nearly every state in the country, Virginia does not officially ban adoption by gay people. But state officials have consistently barred gay people from adopting children. The lawsuit filed last year by Lambda Legal with co-counsel ACLU of Virginia challenged that practice in Kaufman’s out-of-state adoption application.

“We’ve seen this problem elsewhere. The lack of a state law banning gay adoption doesn’t necessarily mean gay people are able to adopt in that state,” said Michael Adams, Lambda Legal Director of Education and Public Affairs. “But in each of these states, there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of kids waiting to be adopted. More of them will be adopted if we forget about old prejudices and base adoption on children’s needs, which is what today’s settlement does.”

The case is Kaufman v. Virginia Dept. of Social Services, in Arlington County Circuit Court. Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia is co-counsel, and Joseph Price of Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, PLLC is Lambda Legal’s cooperating attorney.

For additional information, see the newly updated overview of adoption statutes and case law in each state and additional background on Linda Kaufman and her lawsuit.

Contact: In New York: Eric Ferrero, 212/809-8585 ext. 227; 888/987-1984 (pager)
In Atlanta: Greg Nevins, 404/897-1880
ACLU of VA: Rebecca Glenberg, 804/644-8080

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