Michigan Catholic Charities Office Allowed to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Parents

A Michigan Catholic Charities office recently won a settlement against the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) over the issue of whether the church institution can refuse to work with LGBTQ couples seeking to adopt.

WLNS reported that adoption by LGBTQ couples has been under debate for several years at the Lansing-based social service agency. In 2019, when the state tried to shut down St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities because of the foster care and adoption center’s refusal to let LGBTQ couples adopt, a family headed by a heterosexual couple filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan.

The settlement comes after a unanimous decision by the Michigan Supreme Court that limited the MDHHS’s right to enforce its non-discrimination policy in some contexts.

Demetrius Starling, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency, expressed his ongoing support for LGBTQ families in a press release after the settlement:

“‘While this outcome is not what we hoped for, we are committed to providing support to the many members in the LGBTQ+ community who want to open their hearts and homes. . .We are so appreciative of all families that step up to help these children— no matter their orientation or gender identity and expression.'”

He said that MDHHS values the care that LGBTQ families give to children through foster care and adoption. “We could not do this work without them,” he said.

Deacon James Kasprzak, who heads the Diocese of Lansing’s Catholic Charities, called the settlement “an important win for religious liberty” and “for the most vulnerable children” in Michigan.

As Bondings 2.0 previously reported, St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing had been the subject of another court case, when a judge ruled that “faith-based agencies which refused to place children with LGBTQ parents will be allowed to continue doing so.”

In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia could continue to operate while refusing to work with same-gender couples. The Supreme Court decision applies to this case in Michigan as well.

Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the settlement:

“There are roughly 13,000 children in foster in Michigan. Which course of action most directly helps these children: prioritizing anti-LGBTQ discrimination or providing loving homes to them? The ongoing pursuit of a right to discriminate by Catholic social service agencies greatly undercuts their mission, which is to do charitable works precisely because of the Gospel, a message defined by inclusion.”

Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, February 19, 2022

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