Michigan House Passes Bills Allowing Faith-Based Adoption Agencies to Refuse Service to Same-Sex Or Unmarried Couples

The Michigan House of Representatives chamber. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
The Michigan House of Representatives chamber.
(Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Faith-based adoption agencies could refuse to serve prospective parents based on their religious beliefs under a package of bills that passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The bills, which would allow the agencies to refuse service to same-sex or unmarried couples if that goes against their beliefs, are moving as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next month on whether same-sex marriage should be legal in Michigan and several other states.

All three bills passed on 65-44 votes.

The votes came after passionate debate in the House, with supporters saying the bills ensured that the state continues to offer as many adoption options as possible.

“These bills simply preserve the system we use today,” Republican Rep. Andrea LaFontaine said. “This bill is not about who can and who cannot adopt a child, it’s about ensuring the most alternatives for people wanting to adopt a child.”

In the 2014-15 budget year, $19.9 million in state and federal funds went toward supporting adoption agencies for adoption and foster care services, according to the state DHS. Nearly $10 million went to faith-based agencies that would be covered under the objection bills.

Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy at the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills were an important tool for finding loving homes.

“Securing diversity in child placement and protecting religious liberty rights for faith-based agencies will move children out of the foster care system,” he said in a statement. “Without this legislation there will likely be fewer providers, which means fewer opportunities to find homes for kids that need them.”

Opponents said the bills allow state-sanctioned discrimination.

“It’s not just discrimination. It’s writing a check for discrimination. It’s state-funded discrimination,” Democratic Rep. Jeff Irwin said. “The only reason you’re voting for this bill is that you’re blinded by your own faith.”

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SOURCE: USA Today / Michigan.com – Kathleen Gray

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