Faith-based adoption agencies are suing the state of Michigan again, this time challenging a settlement made by Attorney General Dana Nessel earlier this year mandating that faith-based adoption and foster agencies not discriminate based on the sexual orientation of potential parents. Nessel said that the settlement was appropriate.
“As long as they’re loving, good parents to a child, that should be what we are concerned with more than anything else,” she said on WDET’s Detroit Today show. “And we don’t think that the state did anything incorrect in terms of the settlement. We think it was appropriate given the contracts that were signed.”
The original lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, focused on plaintiffs Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton who wanted to become foster parents but were turned down by two faith-based agencies: Bethany Christian Services and St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
“In fact, Bethany Christian, who was one of the larger agencies that dealt with wards of the state that were up for adoption, they changed their policy altogether [after the settlement],” Nessel said. “What they decided to do was say that they would not discriminate any longer against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals that sought to adopt as long as they met all the other qualifications as any other prospective adoptive parents.”
St. Vincent Catholic Charities, however, is being represented by Becket Law. Nick Reaves, an attorney with the firm, was quoted in a piece by National Public Radio member station WKAR saying that “the state is violating the First Amendment.”
“They’re targeting people’s religious beliefs because they’re choosing to ignore laws protecting those beliefs,” Reaves said.
Nessel said that this lawsuit comes down to a contractual obligation signed by St. Vincent Catholic Charities and is hopeful that it will be dismissed.
“They agreed not to discriminate, that if they were to be provided with the obligation to place this ward and the money, the state tax dollars utilized in that placement process, that they would not discriminate. They signed those contracts themselves, nobody made them do that,” she said. “… When you don’t discriminate against prospective people who want to adopt children you end up with more children being adopted. That’s a fact. Every study that you can look at indicates that that’s the case, and that’s what we ought to be doing.”
A Grand Rapids judge will hear oral arguments today and decide whether the agency can continue to operate under its former policies while this lawsuit is in court.