The American Civil Liberties Union and
ACLU of Michigan on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging
Michigan's anti-LGBT religious freedom adoption law.
In 2015, Republican Governor Rick
Snyder signed three bills into law that allow faith-based agencies
that contract with the state to refuse to place children with couples
based on religious grounds. While sexual orientation is not
specifically mentioned in the legislation, it was widely see as a
preemptive response to Obergefell, the Supreme Court case that
found that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to
marry. Michigan was among the four states involved in the case.
Plaintiffs in the case are two lesbian
couples who were denied service by Catholic adoption agencies and a
Michigan resident who was raised in foster care.
The lawsuit was filed against the
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the
Michigan Children's Service Agency.. ACLU lawyers argue in their
22-page complaint that the U.S. Constitution does not permit
state-contracted, taxpayer-funded agencies to use religious litmus
tests in screening prospective foster or adoptive parents. The
lawsuit argues that the law violates the Establishment and Equal
Protection Clauses of the Constitution.
“Decisions about adoption and foster
family placements should be made based on the needs of the child, not
the religious beliefs of the agency,” said
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan’s Nancy Katz
and Margo Dichtemiller LGBT Project. “There are 13,000 children in
Michigan’s child welfare system. Allowing agencies to turn away
loving, qualified families based on religious criteria creates fewer
families for children, reducing their chances of being placed in a
suitable family, or any family at all.”
Both couples involved in the litigation
are married and were turned away by Catholic agencies. Another
plaintiff grew up in foster care and was placed at age 17 into a
family. She believes the legislation would have blocked her adoption
because her foster father was an atheist.
The lawsuit claims that DHHS's own
policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
identity or expression is not being applied.