Religious Freedom Adoption Law Rankles Activists in Michigan


Three bills recently signed into law by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder would allow adoption agencies to deny services to any prospective parents on religious grounds.

The law will give faith-based adoption agencies the right to deny potential parents by citing religious beliefs.  Those who are denied service must be provided with information pertaining to alternative agencies, writes Kate Abbey-Lambertz for The Huffington Post.

Snyder signed the laws, which are strongly opposed by LGBT advocates, only weeks before the US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the ban on gay marriage in Michigan.

“The state has made significant progress in finding more forever homes for Michigan kids in recent years and that wouldn’t be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process,” Snyder said in a statement.  “We are focused on ensuring that as many children are adopted to as many loving families as possible regardless of their makeup.”

However, opponents of the bill argue that the measure gives agencies the ability to discriminate against potential parents based on sexual orientation, religion or marital status.

The law states that agencies may choose to not serve any potential parents who do not agree with “sincerely held religious beliefs contained in a written policy.”  It goes on to say that the state may not take action from any service that chooses to do so, including taking away public funds or any other form of “discrimination” against the agency.

According to American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Deputy Director Rana Elmir, a legal challenge is being coordinated.

“Agencies have a legal obligation to ensure the best interests of the child are considered during placement,” she said. “There is nothing about this shameful legislation that helps vulnerable kids find homes.”

A number of Democratic lawmakers had voiced their objections to the bills prior to their approval, arguing that they would not only discriminate against LGBT families in the state, but also hurt the 13,000 children who are hoping to be adopted.  Amendments were offered by the Democrats, all of which were rejected, including one that would have required agencies to make it known who they refused service to, as well as another that would have caused agencies receiving over $500,000 in state funding from participating in the bill.

Senator Rick Jones maintains that the law will not prohibit anyone from adopting a child, but would merely offer more options for potential parents while also offering protection to faith-based agencies, which could keep them open, reports Steve Benen for MSNBC.

“If they close their doors, I don’t know what we will do with all of the children,” Jones said Wednesday. “This is a real threat … in Boston, in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and in the state of Illinois, agencies are closing their doors because they have been forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”