LANSING – In a series of party line votes Wednesday morning, Republicans on the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee told kids waiting in the state’s adoption line that religious beliefs of adoption agencies are more important than the kids’ need for a stable home.
Five Republican members of the committee passed House Bills 4188, 4189 and 4190 over the objections of the committee’s three Democrats. The bills are now on their way to the House floor for action.
Reps. Tom Hooker, R-Wyoming; Jim Runestad, R-White Lake Township; Kathy Crawford, R-Novi; Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township; and Henry Vaupel, R-Fowlerville, rejected amendments offered by Democratic Lawmakers Reps. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon; Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, D-Detroit; and Frank Liberati, D-Allen Park. Those amendments would have changed the legislation to require, among other things, adoption agencies to approve adoptions based on the best interests of the children and that agencies follow all federal and state civil rights laws.
State officials say there are 3,000 children awaiting adoption in Michigan’s foster care system.
In a press release on Tuesday, Democrats lambasted the proposals.
“At a time when there are 3,000 Michigan children waiting for a permanent, loving family, these bills are not in the best interest of children,” said Hovey-Wright, the Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee. “Instead of helping these kids find loving homes, we’re making it even harder for them to find families. Michigan’s kids deserve better.”
“As legislators, we have a duty to pass laws that help instead of hinder our citizens,”said Tinsley-Talabi. “These laws threaten to harm our most vulnerable citizens — children without a family of their own. We should be making it easier for them to find loving parents, not driving a wedge between them and adults who want to adopt.”
The bills are a Republican response to federal action by two lesbians from Hazel Park. The couple sued in federal court for the right to adopt each other’s children. The federal court judge directed the plaintiffs, April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse, to amend their complaint to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. That case will be heard by the Supreme Court later this year, with a ruling expected by the end of June.
“Michigan should not be making it more difficult for children waiting for adoption to find a permanent home. We should be promoting policies of inclusion rather than exclusion,” said Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park, whose constituents include DeBoer and Rowse. “When responsible, loving adults want to adopt children who need a family, we should stand behind them, not put roadblocks in their way.”
Residents opposed to the legislation will rally from 12 to 2 p.m. on Thursday in Lansing. The rally will be held on the back steps of the Capitol. For more information on the protests, visit the Facebook event here.
“It’s a sad day when we realize our state would consider bills that aren’t in the best interest of its children,” Nicole Gestwite, protest organizer from Adrian College said. “As a former foster child of Michigan, I can speak on how full those homes are. Discrimination is a horrible thing. And it is even more wretched when we realize how far some people are willing to go to spread that hate — to the point of keeping children out of loving homes.”