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Virginia Laws



Relationship Recognition



  • ·         Passed legislation guaranteeing every person the right to decide who they want to visit them in the hospital three years before President Obama's order (2007).

  • ·         Passed the Small Business Insurance Parity Act, allowing all Virginia businesses to offer domestic partner health care insurance benefits (2005).

Safe Schools


  • ·         Legislation banning gay-straight alliances in elementary and high schools was defeated. (2005, 2006, 2007).

·         Passed anti-bullying legislation (2005).






  • ·         Passed inclusive legislation on a bipartisan vote in the Virginia Senate that would have banned discrimination against GLBT public employees. This is the first time any legislation granting such protection has passed in either house of the Virginia General Assembly (2010). [did not pass the House]



Custody and Adoption

·         Nothing in the Virginia Code or regulations explicitly prohibits GLBT individuals or same-sex couples from petitioning to adopt. See VA CODE Sec. 63.2-1201. However, Virginia courts may consider adoption and custody by homosexuals as contrary to the best interest of the child. See Piatt v. Piatt, 499 S.E.2d 567 (Va. App. 1998); Bottoms v. Bottoms, 457 S.E.2d 102 (Va. 1995); Roe v. Roe, 324 S.E.2d 691 (Va. 1985). But see also Doe v. Doe, 284 S.E.2d 799 (Va. 1981). (Reversing termination of lesbian mother’s parental rights).

·         In April 2005, same-sex adoptive parents from out-of-state filed a complaint against Virginia’s Registrar of Vital Records and Health Statistics after their request for birth certificates listing both adoptive parents of children born in Virginia was denied. The VA Supreme Court ruled that the statute governing issuance of new birth certificates upon proof of adoption required the Registrar to issue new birth certificates listing both of a child’s same-sex adoptive parents. See Davenport v. Little-Bowser.




  • ·         A non-custodial lesbian parent won the right to have her parental status recognized in Virginia and Vermont visitation order enforced. A Virginia judge ruled in October of 2004 that Lisa (the custodial parent) had sole parental rights. The legal battle went back and forth for years until the case landed in the Virginia Supreme Court in 2008. Lawyers for Janet (the non-custodial parent) argued that the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act be considered in this case. The law was put into place to prevent parents from moving children from one jurisdiction to another where the child custody laws would be in their favor. In June 2008, Janet Jenkins won her case. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the visitation order from Vermont and Janet was reunited with her daughter that she hadn’t seen since 2004.

  • ·         The Virginia Court of Appeals in 2009 ruled in favor of a gay couple seeking to uphold an adoption originally decided upon by a court in Gaston County, N.C. The majority of the panel ruled, in an opinion by Judge Cleo E. Powell, that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Virginia courts are obligated to recognize and enforce courts orders concerning custody and jurisdiction of children that are issued by courts of other states that had proper jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the case. Since Copeland, Spivey and the child were residents of North Carolina at the time the custody agreement was embodied in a court order, the Juvenile Court properly registered it without any modification. The Court of Appeals made clear that its decision only concerned the registration of the North Carolina custody and visitation orders, pointing out that all the discussion in the appeal raised by Prashad about “homosexual marriage” and “same-sex relationships,” was irrelevant in the court’s eyes to the specific issue that was being appealed.

  • ·       Virginia law prohibits second parent adoption unless a couple is married. Since the Virginia constitution prohibits marriage between same-sex couples, adoption by gay or lesbian couples is essentially prohibited as well.


Hate Crime Laws

·         Virginia’s hate crime law does not include sexual-orientation. See VA Code § 18.2-57.


Anti-Discrimination Laws


·         Obviously, LGBT advocates were not convinced on Governor McDonnell’s commitment to “prohibit discrimination for any reason,” especially when, soon after Governor McDonnell signed this executive order, Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli sent a letter advising the state's public colleges that they don't have the authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Cuccinelli emphasized that only the General Assembly has that power, and the legislature has “repeatedly refused to exercise its authority,” as shown as recently as the week before the letter was sent when a subcommittee killed legislation that would have banned job discrimination against gay state employees. Cuccinelli wrote that "It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including 'sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,” and advised college governing boards to "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law." The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

·         Most universities were furious: a member of George Mason’s governing board declared the actions “reprehensible,” and made the quite sensible point that the AG could have just let the matter alone. The President of William and Mary released a strong rebuke that went about as far as it responsibly could: Taylor Reveley’s letter to the W&M community said, respectfully but plainly, that the College’s anti-discrimination policy “isn’t going to change.” In addition many students protested on the streets of Richmond, while other students wrote letters to Northrop Grumman (a company choosing to locate their headquarters either in MD or VA) advising them that they should have their headquarters in Maryland because of Virginia’s anti-gay atmosphere. After these protests, the Governor ended up issuing an Executive Directive  that sort-of protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. An Executive Directive doesn’t have the same force as an Executive Order: “an Executive Order would let the aggrieved party sue, while an Executive Directive provides less direct protection. A directive puts the power of the governor’s office, but not of law, behind the mandate. So an employee who has been discriminated against because of sexual orientation can’t sue, but the directive will still be a powerful disincentive because the offender will be disciplined, and perhaps even fired.” McDonnell said he had changed his mind because: “[The controversy] has caused too much fear and too much uncertainty in the business community and the higher-education establishment and among young people in the commonwealth — and I simply won’t stand for that.”