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Federal judge: Michigan taxpayer-funded adoption agency can discriminate against same-sex couples

2019-09-28

Taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies in Michigan can refuse to work with same-sex couples, a federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled Thursday.

The decision halted the state’s adoption rules banning the state to contract with child placement agencies that refused to work with LGBTQ couples. It will now allow agencies such as St. Vincent Catholic Charities, a state-contracted agency funded by taxpayer dollars, to refuse to work with same-sex couples.

The state’s position “targets St. Vincent’s religious beliefs,” U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker wrote in the ruling.

“Today’s decision requires the state to put the individual religious beliefs of foster care agencies ahead of the welfare of children,” Jay Kaplan, American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s LGBT Project staff attorney, said in a statement. “This will not facilitate foster and adoptive placements for children in need. Instead, it will allow agencies to turn away same-sex foster parents who are able to provide supportive and loving homes for these children,” he added.

The ruling challenged a previous settlement in favor of Kristy and Dana Dumont, a same-sex couple who was turned away from two child welfare agencies in 2016 and 2017 because of the agencies’ religious objections.

In March Attorney General Dana Nessel reached an agreement with lawyers with the ACLU of Michigan stating that faith-based adoption agencies that receive funds from the state of Michigan couldn’t turn away LGBTQ couples or individuals because of religious objections.

Lansing-based St. Vincent Catholic Charities, sued the state for the right to refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.

Thursday’s ruling came just four days before the contract between the state of and St. Vincent’s expired, according to Detroit News.

“One of the reasons we needed urgent relief was because the contract was ending on Monday,” Nick Reaves, a lawyer for the agency told the paper. "This ruling basically protects St. Vincent’s and stops the state from taking adverse action, such as not renewing the contract.”