by Kelvey Vander Hart
The state of Michigan has announced that funding will be cut off from adoption agencies that do not work with same-sex couples, forcing faith-based organizations to choose between their religious beliefs and the bottom line.
This decision, announced Friday, comes as a result of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suing the state on behalf of two lesbian couples. The legal settlement was negotiated between ACLU lawyers and Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. In exchange for this new policy for adoption agencies, the plaintiffs in the case will be dismissing their claims and paying their own fees and costs.
Michigan holds contracts with 59 private adoption and foster care agencies across the state, and 20 of them are religiously affiliated. A law passed in 2015 protected these agencies in citing religious convictions when choosing not to place children with same-sex couples.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017 after two lesbian couples approached St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services in an attempt to adopt. Both organizations declined to facilitate the adoptions due to their religious beliefs.
This new policy will require the state to terminate all contracts with any organization that does not willingly allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster through them, effectively cutting off funding to many faith-based organizations. Lori Windham, an attorney with the law firm Becket who works on religious freedom cases, commented:
The Michigan AG and the ACLU are trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies…The result of that will be tragic. Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve.
While this settlement is in violation of the 2015 law that protected the status of faith-based agencies, it is not surprising, as Attorney General Nessel is the first lesbian elected to statewide office in Michigan. During her campaign she commented, “Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale…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.”