Adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan who contract with the state can no longer refuse to place children with qualified same-sex parents over religious reasons thanks to a legal settlement Friday that some fear will put faith-based agencies out of business.
Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel and the two same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union came to a legal agreement that a 2015 law allowing religious-based adoption agencies to refuse adoption services to same-sex couples violates federal discrimination laws.
The agreement settled a federal complaint filed in 2017 after the couples were refused service by St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services.
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” Nessel said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”
Under its nondiscrimination provision, agencies looking to partner with the state cannot turn away or refuse a same-sex couple or individual who is suitable to foster or adopt a child.
Agencies that violate such a provision could have their contracts terminated.
A summary of the agreement states that when an adoption or foster agency accepts a referral of a child for foster or adoption care from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, its legal protection ensuring its right to refuse to work with same-sex couples because of deeply-held religious beliefs “no longer applies to the agency’s provision of these services to the accepted child or individual.”
In a summary of the agreement, it was claimed that “Title IVE-funded programs prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” It should be noted, however, that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes in federal civil rights law and there is a push right now among Democrats in Congress to pass a law that would make those protected classes.