Fraud Blocker

Challenges Remain for LGBTQ Couples in Virginia

It’s been nearly seven years since the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage. For the most part, this gave all couples the same rights and protections throughout the U.S., including in Virginia. However, same-sex couples still face discrimination and other challenges when starting and planning a family.

Marital timeline

Same-sex couples have been dating, living together, and committing to each other for decades in Virginia, but several state family laws only recognize periods of actual, legal marriage. This can be a particular challenge for couples who had been committed to each other well before the Supreme Court’s decision.

For example, in Virginia, the Code specifies how the Court is to handle the distribution of assets and property in Virginia, but the law specifically mentions “marital property.” This only applies to items and assets acquired during a period of marriage that is officially recognized by law. This can be difficult to discern for couples who have recognized each other’s commitment far beyond the time period where their marriage was deemed legal.

The wording and legal definition of marriage applies to most domestic relation laws in Virginia, so it’s important to keep in mind when your marriage actually took place versus. when you made a commitment to your partner.


Families can and do take many forms. While many couples either have children of their own or no children at all, adoption is an option for all families in Virginia. In fact, the Virginia Department of Social Services issued a notice that all public adoption and foster agencies should consider all married couples equally when placing a child. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to private adoption or foster agencies.

Private agencies in Virginia are, by law, allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples. Lawmakers added a “conscience clause” to adoption laws which gives religious agencies the option to refuse adoption to any couple that “would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” This clause is a setback for same-sex couples in the state, so it’s important to keep this in mind if your family is looking to adopt and seeking to work with private agencies.

Establishing parental rights

Same-sex couples hoping to have biological children also face another challenge when it comes to the establishment of parental rights. State law gets very specific in defining who gets parental rights, which includes outlines on who gets parental rights when sperm or egg donors are utilized.

Whenever a couple is using donor eggs or sperm, it’s important to establish a “non-donor agreement.” This agreement makes clear the intent of who the actual parents are and establishes who is a donor with no parental rights. 

Same-sex couples are legally permitted to have both parents listed on a birth certificate, but birth certificates do not offer all of the protections as non-donor agreements and further cannot be put in place prior to the insemination and birth of your child.

Your Virginia family law firm

At Rinehart Bryant, we have extensive experience handling family law cases in Virginia. We know the law, and we know your rights. Contact us today for peace of mind. We help you like family would.

The following two tabs change content below.

Rinehart Bryant, PLLC

If you are looking for a family law firm to help you through your Virginia divorce who actually cares about you, we promise that you won’t find a better home than Rinehart Bryant, PLLC.

Latest posts by Rinehart Bryant, PLLC (see all)