Adoption under fire

By |2008-04-04T09:00:00-04:00April 4th, 2008|Uncategorized|

LANSING – Two bills have been introduced in the Michigan House that would impact LGBT people seeking to adopt children or become foster parents. Although the bills do not specifically address LGBT foster and adoptive parents, LGBT leaders call the bills a clear attempt to hurt LGBT families.
House Bills 5690 and 5691, introduced by Rep. John Stahl (R-Lapeer), would allow child placement agencies to object to placing a child based on moral or religious convictions.
HB 5690 reads, in part: “A child placing agency is not required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, facilitate, refer, or participate in a placement that violates the child placing agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies. A state or local government entity may not deny a child placing agency a grant, contract, or participation in a government program because of the child placing agency’s objection to performing, assisting, counseling, recommending, facilitating, referring, or participating in a placement that violates the child placing agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
HB 5691 deals with licensure by the Family Independence Agency of a child-placing agency that objects to placements on religious or moral grounds.
Beverly Davidson of the Coalition for Adoption Rights Equality, called the bills anti-gay. “It’s a very subtle way of denying gays from adopting,” she said. “They’re not going to say that, but this is clearly what this is about.”
In addition, said Davidson, the bills are not in the best interest of children. “All it does is protect religious institutions, it does nothing to protect children,” she said. “Protecting a private foster care and adoption agency has no business being in child welfare or adoption law.”
Davidson said the bills would protect agencies who discriminate from being sued and could open up the doors for foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against people for a variety of reasons besides sexual orientation.
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Legal Project, also opposes the bills. “HB 5690 raises some definite Constitutional concerns,” he said. Most people in the foster care system are wards of the state and the state contracts with these child placing agencies to find homes for these kids, so by virtue of a grant or contract or participating with the Family Independence Agency, the child placing agency is a state actor and to allow state actors to make placement decisions based on religious convictions violates the establishment clause, which requires separation of church and state.”
Kaplan also believes that the bill is anti-gay. “We believe they want to ensure that agencies that have contracts with the state can refuse to place kids with gay parents,” he said.
Ultimately, the bills would hurt children. “Children would suffer by this law because it would shrink the already insufficient pool of adoptive parents for these kids,” said Kaplan.
The bills have 21 co-sponsors including Rep. Gary Newell (R-Saranac), the sponsor of the anti-gay marriage amendment bill, Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R-Kalamazoo) who proposed anti-gay legislation in response to U of M’s How To Be Gay course last year, and Rep. Scott Hummel (R-DeWitt) who is the sponsor of a bill to ban second-parent adoptions in Michigan. The bill has yet to be introduced, but is expected to be introduced after the legislature returns from spring recess in mid-April.
Davidson said Hummel’s bill is in complete contradiction to what CARE is trying to do. “It would be a huge detriment to the gay and lesbian parenting community,” she said. “If Hummel’s bill were to pass kids would be left without legal relationships to both of their parents,” she said, adding that the bill would also impact heterosexual couples who are not married. “The bottom line is it’s going to hurt kids because it’s going to impede their ability to have two legal parents.” Davidson said that the bill’s intent is contradictory to what the right-wing claims they want: two parent homes.
It is important that LGBT families and their allies contact their Representatives and urge them not to support these bills. To find your Representative visit www.vote-smart.org.
CARE is planning a family lobby day to lobby against all three bills for Tuesday, May 11. Families who are interested in attending should contact Bev Davidson at [email protected] or 734-646-8150.

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