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Bills would shield faith-based adoption agencies from effects of SCOTUS ruling

Jun 10, 2015

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Controversial adoption on its way to Governor Rick Snyder would allow faith-based adoption agencies that take public money to refuse to work with same-sex couples. That’s even if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.

The legislation says adoption agencies that take public funds can turn away prospective clients based on a religious objection. That pretty much mirrors the existing state policy.

Both chambers of the Legislature – the House and the Senate – adopted matching versions of the legislation, which sends the bills to Snyder just a couple of weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the marriage case.

The timing is not a coincidence, say Democrats.

“Similar laws are being proposed across the United States in a desperate bid to push back against the eventual legalization of same-sex marriage,” says state Senator Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing.

State Senator Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, says the legislation would make it harder to place kids.

“These bills threaten to allow moral ideology to of an individual child-placing agency to be placed above the well-being of our children,” she says.

The bills passed on mostly party-line votes. State Senator Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, joined Democrats in voting against the bills.

Republicans say it will simply ensure that faith-based agencies don’t give up on helping the state with adoptions. State Senator Rick Jones, R-Eaton Rapids, defended the legislation. He says without it, some faith-based adoption services would close shop.  

“There are many opportunities to adopt, and these very special children need our help,” he says. “But we are doing today will not prevent anyone from adopting.”

Jones says that’s because agencies that refuse to work with a couple would still have to refer them to a service that would accept them. The Senate added language to strengthen that requirement, although opponents say it’s a largely empty gesture.

The stakes could be high. Michigan has 13,000 kids waiting to be adopted.

  

Michigan’s foster care system is also operating under the purview of a federal court for failing to place enough children in permanent homes.

Governor Snyder’s spokesman says the decision on signing the bills will rest on creating the most opportunities to get children placed with permanent families.