Michigan State Funded Adoption Agencies Are Barred from Discriminating Same-sex Couples

Religious charities have protested the decision.

Faith-centric Michigan adoption agencies who accept public funding will not be allowed from now on to legally reject LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples on the grounds of religious objection. Dana Nessel, the Attorney General of Michigan, reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on March 22, recognizing a law inked in 2015 which allowed child welfare agencies contracted by the state to offer adoption or foster care services to refuse any service that clashed with their religious beliefs violating all federal laws created to protect individuals from discrimination. In her statement, Nessel said it is illegal to discriminate when it comes to adoption services and foster care management. Such a statement holds, she emphasized, independent of the rationale to do otherwise.

According to Nessel, restricting a child's opportunity to be fostered or adopted by any loving family is not only against the aim of the state to find a home for every child, the instance directly violates the contract which every agency signed with the state to place a child. As per the legal agreement, it is obligatory for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to follow all non-discriminatory provisions as stated by federal mandate. It also needed to terminate all contracts with the non-compliance agencies.

The origins of the settlement come from a 2017 ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman and two lesbian couples. The woman was in the foster care system administered by Michigan authority during her teenage years. The couples claimed in their suit they were refused by Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Charities solely on their sexual orientation. A 2015 law passed by a GOP controlled legislature permitted adoption agencies in Michigan to refuse LGBTQ members if they quoted conflict with personal religious beliefs. The law, however, was mum towards agencies which had contracts with Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Conservatives are already at arms against the ruling. Lori Windham, the senior counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities, said that such a settlement violates the laws of Michigan state which protects all religious adoption agencies. In her statement, she alleged that the ACLU and the Attorney General of Michigan are trying to bar the state from partnering with faith-centric adoption agencies.

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