Kaufman v. Virginia Department of Social Services
Case seeking the right for a lesbian woman to adopt her second child
Virginia resident Linda Kaufman, an ordained Episcopal minister, sought to adopt a second child from the foster care system in Washington, D.C. in 1999. But, the state of Virginia blocked her efforts by citing its sodomy law. Virginia’s actions came despite Kaufman successfully raising a son adopted at age five from Washington in 1992, and despite the fact that a Virginia adoption agency and District of Columbia officials had determined she was a well-qualified parent. Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in Virginia state court on Kaufman’s behalf, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. The two organizations argued that under Virginia law, applicants to adopt must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in light of child’s the best interests, rather than being categorically disqualified because of their sexual orientation. In 2002, Lambda Legal and the ACLU were victorious against an attempt by Virginia’s attorney general to have the case dismissed, and later that year reached a key settlement that cleared the way for Kaufman to begin the adopting process. The settlement required a directive from the state’s Department of Social Services stating that “there are no absolute barriers” to Virginia’s consenting to interstate adoptions. Previously, Virginia officials had consistently refused to consider interstate applications from prospective parents who were gay or lesbian.
Many LGBT and people living with HIV would like to become parents but their rights vary widely among states, and discrimination and irrational stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV persist. Virginia officials tried to prevent Kaufman from adopting a second foster child even though the need for such parents in the Washington, D.C., area was dire.
Lambda Legal’s Impact
With this case Lambda Legal won an important victory not only for Kaufman, but all potential adoptive LGBT parents in Virginia.
- 1999: Kaufman seeks to adopt a second foster child, but is barred from doing so by the state of Virginia because the state consistently refused to consent to interstate adoptions by lesbian or gay parents.
- December 2001 Lambda Legal files suit against the state of Virginia on Kaufman's behalf.
- August 2002 Victory! Lambda Legal wins an important settlement on behalf of Kaufman that allows interstate adoption applications by prospective parents who are lesbian or gay to go forward in Virginia.