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In March Attorney General Dana Nessel and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan reached a settlement that blocked faith-based adoption agencies with state contracts from discrimination against LGBTQ couples who sought to adopt from them. Last month, District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids issued a preliminary injunction that said that Nessel’s actions conflicted with state law and existing contracts and established practice.
He said that canceling the existing contracts “strongly suggests the State’s real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the State’s own,” he wrote. “… It would disrupt a carefully balanced and established practice that ensures non-discrimination in child placements while still accommodating traditional Catholic religious beliefs on marriage.”
The original lawsuit, filed by the ACLU 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. Bethany Christian services eventually ended up changing their policy after the settlement to allow potential LGBTQ adoptive parents to utilize their services if they met all the qualifications necessary for adoption.
However, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, represented by Becket Law, are challenging the state’s decision in a lawsuit. In August, Nessel appeared on WDET’s Detroit Today show and said that this lawsuit comes down to a contractual obligation signed by St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
“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.”
Jonker is an appointee of former President George W. Bush. An Associated Press report said that he “declined to dismiss Nessel from the suit, saying she ‘targeted’ St. Vincent. He said she is at the ‘very heart’ of the case after she made past statements referring to proponents of the 2015 law as ‘hate-mongers’ and calling the measure indefensible during her 2018 campaign.”