March 2022 Church & State Magazine

Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Allowed To Discriminate In Mich.

  Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Allowed To Discriminate In Mich.

To settle a lawsuit, officials in Michigan in late January agreed to allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve certain people, such as those who are LGBTQ, while maintaining their relationship with the state.

The controversy goes back to 2019, when officials in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that the agency would no longer work with adoption agencies that discriminate. The Becket Fund, a Religious Right legal group, subsequently sued the state on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing.

In June of 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that officials in Philadelphia had to allow Catholic Social Services to exclude LGBTQ families from its publicly funded foster care program. The decision in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case was narrow, and it turned on the specific facts of the case. The court, ruling unanimously, held that because Philadelphia officials had allowed individualized exemptions from its non-discrimination requirements in its foster care program, it had to exempt Catholic Social Services, too.

The high court did not grant a broad license to discriminate in the name of religion in the Philadelphia case, but officials in Michigan reviewed the ruling and decided to settle the lawsuit in their state. Under the terms of the settlement, the state will pay St. Vincent more than half a million dollars in legal fees.

“This is a disappointing turn of events in a case that has been ongoing for a few years,” Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, told Pride Source, a Michigan-based LGBTQ news site. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be LGBTQ+ kids and LGBTQ+ parents that are going to be impacted most.“

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