Adoption Agencies in Michigan Can Now Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

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Adoption Agencies in Michigan Can Now Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

Nina Liss-Schultz

Same-sex couples in Michigan may have a harder time adopting children under new laws signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday that allow adoption agencies to deny anyone services based on the organization's "sincerely held" religious beliefs.

Same-sex couples in Michigan may have a harder time adopting children under new laws signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday that allow adoption agencies to deny anyone services based on the organization’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

The package of complementary bills—HB 4188, HB 4189, and HB 4190passed through the state legislature on Wednesday and was signed by Snyder less than a day after coming to his desk. Snyder, a Republican who said in April that he would veto stand-alone religious freedom legislation, talked about the bills as a way to increase the number of adoption agencies in the state.

“This is about making sure we get the largest number of kids in forever families,” Snyder told the Associated Press. “The more opportunities and organizations we have that are doing a good job of placing people in loving families, isn’t that better for all of us?”

The Michigan Catholic Conference, which is the “official public policy voice” of the Catholic Church in the state, has for years lobbied for adoption agency religious freedom bills, following reports that Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois closed their doors instead of following regulations requiring them to work with same-sex couples.

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Under the laws, the state would be prohibited from taking any “adverse action” against child-placing agencies—even those that receive state funding or the benefit of contracts with the state—because they discriminate against people. The laws come just weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Michigan’s, as well as three other states’, same-sex marriage bans.

Two other states, Virginia and North Dakota, have laws explicitly allowing discrimination by private adoption agencies.

Florida lawmakers also considered a similar bill this year. HB 7111, the “Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies Act,” was passed by the state house but died in a senate committee.

Only hours after the laws were signed by Snyder, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan vowed to challenge them in court.

“We are developing a lawsuit with our Muslim, Jewish, Christian and LGBTQ partners,” said Rana Elmir, the organization’s deputy director. “There is nothing about this shameful legislation that helps vulnerable kids find homes.”