By Gary Robertson
RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - Virginia same-sex couples can now legally adopt children and also become foster parents, the Virginia Department of Social Services said in a bulletin on Friday to its local offices across the state.
Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the bulletin sent on Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear appeals that sought to keep bans on same-sex marriage in place in Virginia and four other states.
"Now that same-sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love," said McAuliffe, a Democrat in his first year in office.
"This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families."
Polls had shown a majority of Virginia voters approving of gay marriage and following McAuliffe's swearing-in in January, after four years of Republican rule, state officials had said they would no longer defend the state's ban on the practice.
Margaret Schultze, commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, said her department would be reviewing all applicable statutes and regulations to determine what amendments need to be made to state policies.
A spokesman for The Family Foundation of Virginia, which opposes adoptions by gay or lesbian couples, denounced the action.
"We now live in a Virginia where the government is intentionally going to deny children either a mom or a dad, simply to appease the desire of adults and not in the best interest of kids," Chris Freund said.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)