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VCU professor speaks against anti-gay adoption bill

VCU social work professor speaks to legislators about opposing a bill that could have restricted her from adopting her child.
Heated discussion took place in the Senate Comittee for Courts of Justice when comittee members rejected a bill that would require adoption agencies to investigate whether or not potential foster parents engaged in "homosexual activity."
VCU professor speaks against anti-gay adoption bill

By Holly Hobbs and Weston Reeves
Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Seven years ago, Virginia Commonwealth University professor Liz Cramer and her partner adopted a child who had been labeled as unwanted. Now, Cramer is considered an outcast of another system. She is fighting for the right of gay Virginians to be parents.

Cramer and her partner went through a yearlong process of paperwork, classes and other preparations to adopt the girl, who had been classified as a “special needs child? because of her age.

Cramer said she knew it was the right decision the moment she saw a picture of Karen, then 10, in a photo album of children up for adoption.

“It just spoke to me,? she said.
Last week, Cramer spoke to legislators who were considering a bill to make it hard, if not impossible, for same-sex couples to adopt children in Virginia. Her firsthand experience helped persuade a Senate committee to abandon the idea.

“One day when my daughter was about 12, she told me that she thought her two mothers, and two friends of ours who are a same-sex couple, have really good relationships,? Cramer told the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

“We have shown through our example what it means to treat others with respect, to set appropriate boundaries and to be honest and compassionate.

None of these did she learn or experience with her birth parents.?

Cramer, who teaches in the VCU School of Social Work, said adoptions should be encouraged, not restricted. Instead of making it more difficult for lesbians and gays to adopt, the state should explore ways to support adoptive parents, she told senators.

The committee was considering House Bill 2921, sponsored by Delegate Richard H. Black, R-Sterling. It would have required adoption services to conduct background checks to screen for homosexual or cohabiting couples not related by blood or marriage.

“Traditionally, Virginia has not permitted homosexuals to adopt by virtue of the language that is currently found in the statute that requires a moral and suitable home for children,? Black said. “House Bill 2921 simply reserves the Virginia tradition of having mothers and fathers adopt children.?

Black said his bill was not intended to take children away from gay or single parents. But he said adoptions should be made in the best interest of the children, not as a reward for adults.

The bill’s opponents said that adoption by a gay couple can be in the best interest of the children. Cramer said her daughter is a testament that.

Karen, now 18, agreed. In an e-mail to Cramer, she criticized legislative attempts to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting.

“I think they are trying to take all of gay people’s rights and I think it is stupid,? Karen wrote.

“Most gays are better parents than straight people because they have to plan to have kids ... so they must want the child if they are planning. Straight families don’t always plan to have the kids they have.?

After hearing both sides of the issue, the Senate committee voted to kill the bill.

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