The state of Michigan will require all adoption agencies receiving government funding to work with LGBTQ parents, as the result of a settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D).
The ACLU’s lawsuit aimed to change the practice of some faith-based adoption agencies, including Catholic Charities, who have refused to place children with LGBTQ couples. Joining the ACLU in bringing the lawsuit were two lesbian couples who were denied the chance to foster a child, as well as a woman who was in foster care during her teens.
The settlement changes the interpretation of a law passed in 2015 and signed by previous Governor Rick Snyder (R). That law offers religious liberty protections to any adoption agencies choosing to discriminate against LGBTQ parents. But the ACLU maintained that protection did not extend to adoption agencies holding contracts with the state government, arguing that would amount to an unconstitutional usage of state money to enforce religious belief.
Nessel, the Attorney General, accepted that rationale in crafting the settlement. She released a statement, saying:
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale. Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”
It is unclear how Catholic adoption agencies in Michigan will respond. Catholic Charities in Buffalo, NY ended its adoption and foster services last year after the state banned discrimination of LGBTQ parents. Close to 100 of the organization’s own employees signed a letter of protest to the decision, saying in part:
“The research is clear that gay parents are good parents. What is not clear is why the church would take the present action to allow more children to go without families rather than recognize a loving family for what it is. It is antithetical to Catholic values to deny a child a loving home when one is available.”
Catholic opponents of LGBTQ adoption often cite a 2003 document from the Vatican on the legal recognition of gay marriage. That document argues adoption by same sex couples harms children because those children are not able to learn from the “sexual complementarity” of a heterosexual marriage. Children of same sex couples “would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood,” which “would actually mean doing violence to these children…”
The threat of “violence” found in lacking a mother or father apparently does not, however, extend to single parents: Catholic Charities in Michigan encourages single people to apply to foster or adopt a child.
With an estimated 2 million LGBTQ people across the US interested in adopting children, LGBTQ parents are likely to play an even larger role in adoptions in the years ahead.
Kristy and Dana Dumont, one of the couples named in the lawsuit, expressed their wishes for the future after the settlement. “We are hopeful that this will mean more families for children, especially those who have been waiting years for a family to adopt them,” they said in a statement. “And we can’t wait to welcome one of those children into our family.”
–Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, April 12, 2019