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ACLU: Michigan Adoption Agencies Discriminating Against Same-Sex Couples

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 25, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the agency allows state-contracted and taxpayer-funded child placement agencies to use religious objections as a way to discriminate against qualified families based on their sexual orientation. The suit was filed on behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied the opportunity to adopt or foster children because of agencies' religious objections, as well as one woman who was in Michigan's foster care system as a teenager.

All are objecting to Michigan allocating taxpayer funds to adoption and foster services that discriminate against qualified parents and homes.

Same-Sex Discrimination

While the lawsuit is clear that it is not trying to challenge the right of any private agency to practice its religion, it contends that practice can't include taking taxpayer money and then discriminating based on religious beliefs:

DHHS has chosen to contract out public adoption and foster care services to private agencies and pays these agencies with taxpayer funds to perform this government function. Some of these agencies refuse to accept prospective families headed by same-sex couples or to place children with same-sex parent families due to the agencies' religious objections to such families. DHHS is aware that these agencies are turning away these potentially qualified families solely for religious reasons but DHHS has not stopped them from engaging in this conduct.

Because it would be illegal for the state department to discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive parents on the basis of sexual orientation, the lawsuit claims, Michigan's DHHS shouldn't be able to contract with private agencies that do the same.

Anti-LGBT Legislation

The lawsuit also references legislation Michigan passed in 2015 (right before the Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage), that explicitly allowed child placement agencies to deny services that "conflict with ... the child placing agency's sincerely held religious beliefs." The suit claims these laws and Michigan's current practice violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and are asking a federal court to block the state's practice of allowing taxpayer-funded agencies to disqualify prospective parents based on religious beliefs.

If you've been denied adoption or foster care services based on your sex, gender, or sexual orientation, contact an experienced adoption attorney today.

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