Michigan Governor Signs Law Allowing Adoption Agencies to Say No to Homosexuals, Unmarried Couples

April DeBoer, 43, left, and Jayne Rowse, 50, of Hazel Park, Mich., attend Michigan Adoption Day with their family to finalize their fourth adoption of 28-month old Rylee DeBoer-Rowse, on Nov. 25, 2014 at the Oakland County Court House in Pontiac, Mich. April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse are plaintiffs battling for marriage equality in Michigan. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)
April DeBoer, 43, left, and Jayne Rowse, 50, of Hazel Park, Mich., attend Michigan Adoption Day with their family to finalize their fourth adoption of 28-month old Rylee DeBoer-Rowse, on Nov. 25, 2014 at the Oakland County Court House in Pontiac, Mich. April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse are plaintiffs battling for marriage equality in Michigan.
(Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)

Faith-based adoption agencies will be allowed to refuse to serve prospective parents, such as same-sex or unmarried couples, if doing so would go against their religious beliefs in a package of bills that Michigan’s governor signed Thursday.

Gov. Rick Snyder said the legislation codifies existing state practice for private agencies with contracts to place children and ensures as many organizations as possible are involved in helping kids be adopted.

The Republican-controlled state Senate sent the bill Wednesday to Snyder as the U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of ruling later this month on whether same-sex marriages should be legal nationwide.

The Senate version included a requirement that faith-based adoption agencies provide referrals to other agencies if they refuse service to prospective parents. So the bill went back to the state House where it received a quick concurrence vote, passing 65-44.

Snyder had been coy about whether he would support the bills. Earlier this year he said the adoption bills would need further review and that he’s in favor of children being adopted by “loving families” and “loving parents.” He didn’t specify whether that included same-sex couples.

Late Thursday, ACLU attorney Brooke Tucker said the group is looking at ways to challenge the law on constitutional grounds.

“The constitution doesn’t allow discrimination based on religion and you can’t do that with state funds,” she said. “We’re looking at our legal options and especially looking to hear from people who will be adversely affected by this.”

Michigan, along with Louisiana and Mississippi, already places restrictions on same-sex couples adopting children, according to the Family Equality Council, a Boston-based nonprofit that says it represents 3 million LGBT parents.

On Wednesday, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel, had said the governor would carefully review the bills “through the lens of what will ensure that we are taking care of the most Michigan children, and matching them with their forever families.”

Critics of the bills derided the legislation as state-sanctioned discrimination — especially because many of the faith-based agencies receive state money. But supporters say the new law will help keep all options open for adoptive parents while not forcing the agencies to compromise their principles for fear of legal retaliation or face closure because of a loss of public money.

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

“If they close their doors, I don’t know what we’ll do with all the children,” GOP Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, Mich., said Wednesday after the state Senate vote. “This is a real threat.”

GOP Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, Mich., quoted scripture, saying Jesus told a woman accused of adultery, “‘Go and sin no more.’ He called it out. He didn’t just accept it and say, ‘Live however you want.’ The creator is pretty clear on certain things.”

But opponents said the bills just signed legalize discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities as well as unmarried couples.

“These RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) adoption bills are the most egregious example of religious conservatism run amok in our government,” said Sen. Coleman Young, a Detroit Democrat. “Children are in desperate need of stable and loving homes. And today, we’re slashing those opportunities because of archaic, closed-minded thinking.”

Other Democrats said the timing of the Senate action is clear.

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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press – Kathleen Gray

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