Eva N. Juncker, Virginia Attorney, obo National Center for Lesbian Rights
All Virginia's Children Deserve Loving Homes
I am a Virginia attorney practicing in the areas of family law, divorce and dissolution, custody and visitation, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family law. I am also admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and the United States Supreme Court. I received my law degree from the George Mason University School of Law and have been a member of the Virginia State Bar since 1999. Presently, I am a member of the Virginia State Bar's Special Committee on Access to Legal Services, the Fairfax County Bar Association, the Virginia Women Attorneys' Association and the National LGBT Bar Association. I have served on the Board of Directors for the National Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association, and served as that organization's affiliate member to the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association. My work can be found as the reported case of Scott v. Scott, Court of Appeals of Virginia, December 7, 2004, Record No. 0815-04-4, affirmed.
I am a partner at the Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC where we concentrate our practice on family law and estate planning, handling adoptions, divorces and dissolutions, custody and visitation, donor and parenting agreements, assisted reproductive technology issues, estate planning and probate matters. We assist our clients in creating legal protections for themselves and their families.
I am also a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The Council is composed of 43 family law attorneys across the U.S. dedicated to the advancement of the protections and rights of LGBT parents and families. NCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
On behalf of NCLR, I write to urge the Virginia Board of Social Services to adopt non-discrimination regulations for child placement agencies that include all of the original proposed listed categories: race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or family status. It is unconscionable to deny needy children homes and care, love and forever families for no legitimate reason. Currently, the Department of Social Services reports that 5,673 children are in foster care in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The best interests of these children are not served by leaving them in foster care when they could be adopted by qualified parents. We all have a responsibility to ensure that these children are helped to find families.
In my experience as a Virginia attorney with many gay and lesbian clients, sexual orientation is fundamentally irrelevant to a person’s capacity to be a good parent. Social science research confirms what experience and common sense already suggest, namely, that love, stability, patience, and time to spend with a child are far more critical factors in being a good parent than a person’s gender or sexual orientation. In a landmark case on this point, Florida Department of Children & Families v. X.X.G., 45 So.3d 79 (Fla. Ct. App. 2010), the state’s Third District Court of Appeal struck down Florida’s ban on adoption by gay and lesbian parents as unconstitutional and recognized that the ban had did not serve the best interests of children. This was the correct result, for there is a resounding consensus among the country’s leading pediatric, psychological, psychiatric and child welfare service providers and scholars that children of gay and lesbian parents are as well adjusted and as psychologically, emotionally, educationally, and socially successful as children of heterosexual parents. This consensus stems both from the professional experiences of these experts and their review and analysis of the social science research related to the effects of parenting by gay and lesbian individuals on children’s development and well-being. See, e.g., AAP, Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents, 109 Pediatrics 341, 341 (2002); American Psychiatric Association (“APA”), Adoption and Co-parenting of Children by Same-sex Couples: Position Statement (2002), at http://www.psych.org/du/other_res/ lib_archives/archives/200214.pdf (“APA Position Statement”); American Psychological Ass’n, Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children (2004), at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/policy/parentschildren.pdf (formalizing conclusion previously reached in Lesbian and Gay Parenting: A Resource for Psychologists, at http:/www.apa.org/pi/parent.html (1995)); American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Policy Statement: Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Parents (1999), at http://www.aacap.org/publications/policy/ps46.htm; CWLA, Position Statement on Parenting of Children by Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults (2005), at http://www.cwla.org/programs/culture/glbtqposition.htm (“CWLA Position Statement”) (reaffirming prior opposition to assessing adopting applicants on their sexual orientation, which was incorporated into the 2000 Standards); NASW, Social Work Speaks: Policy Statements 2000-03, 194 (2000) (“NASW Policy Statement”); NACAC, Position Statement on Eliminating Categorical Restrictions in Foster Care and Adoption (2007), at http://www. nacac.org/policy/positions.html#eliminating (“NACAC Position Statement”). The social science research pertaining to the effects on children of having gay or lesbian parents spans over thirty years and is published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. In sum, this research demonstrates that lesbian and gay parents can and do provide the same loving and secure parent-child relationships (with attendant benefits) that heterosexual parents provide.
Based on this research, the leading professional organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being have approved formal policies opposing the categorical exclusion of gay men and lesbian women as adoptive parents. These include the Child Welfare League of America, established in 1920, and the National Association of Social Workers, established in 1955—which together consist of over 150,000 members and serve over 700 child welfare groups nationwide—and such venerable medical associations as the American Academy of Pediatrics (60,000 members), the American Psychiatric Association (38,000 members), the American Psychological Association (150,000 members), and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (7,500 members). Any organization that excludes lesbian or gay people as potential foster parents does so for reasons that do not serve childrens’ best interests.
The Virginia Code clearly grants the Board the authority to approve the non-discrimination regulations as originally proposed and no other authority is needed, despite what some have suggested. Neither the attorney general nor anyone else has articulated a single valid legal reason why the Board may not do so. Further, it is legally impermissible for Virginia to license private agencies to discriminate against lesbian, gay or bisexual potential adoptive or foster parents for the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that opposition to homosexuality is not a legitimate governmental policy objective. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
We know that some who object to these regulations argue that this is a religious freedom issue, but free exercise is not implicated in this matter because these regulations would place no burden on religious belief or practice. State action through licensing is what is at issue and there is simply no constitutional right to be granted a state-issued license to discriminate in social services against a listed class of Virginians, including lesbian, gay or bisexual people. That principle applies even where the desire to deny services is motivated by deeply-held personal or religious beliefs. For when private agencies, whether religiously affiliated or not, seek licenses to act with the authority of the state in a quintessentially state matter such as foster care or adoption placements, they must be willing to abide by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state. This principle serves the best interest of children because it ensures the broadest possible pool of foster and adoptive parents for Virginia’s children in need. With thousands of children waiting, that concern is paramount. For all of these reasons, the Board should act expeditiously to adopt the non-discrimination provisions as originally written. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue of vital importance to all Virginians.