BY BTL STAFF
LANSING – Legislative Democrats introduced legislation Aug. 20 that would modify the adoption discrimination bills signed into law earlier this year. The new laws allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse placements with same-sex couples, unmarried couples and any other couple or person based on the agency’s religious beliefs. Bills introduced this week would change the law by allowing the state to remove funding for agencies that use their own faith as a reason to discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants.
“Creating a legal loophole that allowed adoption agencies to discriminate was a mistake,” said Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo. “When it comes to adoption, what’s good for the child should always be the primary concern. Instead, the adoption discrimination laws put the interests of the agency ahead of the child. That was wrong, and it’s time to fix it.”
The adoption discrimination bills were signed into law in early June. Later that month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that marriage is a right available to same-sex as well as straight couples. In addition, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status.
“I am Catholic, I am divorced and I am the proud father to my adopted son,” said state Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., D-Meridian Township. “What a child needs most is a safe home with a family who loves them. Michigan has 13,000 children in foster care. No church, and no state, should stand between them and a forever home.”
Michigan’s adoption discrimination bills were signed into law despite a public outcry against them, and the American Civil Liberties Union has said that it is considering avenues to challenge the constitutionality of the laws.
“Michigan should always put the needs of a child waiting for adoption ahead of the desire of an adoption agency to discriminate,” said Rep. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, D-Detroit. “In our state, we have approximately 3,000 children waiting for adoption at any given time. We should be doing all we can to place these children in permanent homes, not creating laws that turn away people who simply want to give a child a loving family.”
Bills in the package are House Bill 4840, sponsored by Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park; HB 4841 sponsored by Hoadley; and HB 4842, sponsored by Tinsley-Talabi.
“Recently passed bills that allow adoption and foster care agencies to deny services based on ‘religious beliefs or moral convictions’ are not only discriminatory and outdated, but keep thousands of children needlessly waiting for good homes,” said state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “This legislation will put our kids first and ensure that foster and adoption agencies are acting in their best interests.”