By Ed White
DETROIT (AP) — Michigan is illegally allowing faith-based groups to reject same-sex couples who want to adopt children or become foster parents, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the practice.
Groups such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services are paid by the state to place children from troubled families with new families. The ACLU said Michigan is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing groups to use a religious test to carry out public services.
Allowing agencies to discriminate could be the difference “between a child finding a permanent loving home or staying in the system,” attorney Jay Kaplan said.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law in 2015 that says child-placement agencies aren’t required to provide services that conflict with their beliefs. It was signed before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
The Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Detroit federal court, and instead referred to the law.
The plaintiffs include Dana and Kristy Dumont, who said they were turned down by two faith-based agencies in the Lansing area.
“We have a lot to offer a child. We have a lot of love to give,” said Dana, a state employee who responded to state emails encouraging adoption.
Kaplan said the lawsuit was filed after Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office declined to speak to the ACLU about possible discrimination.
The Michigan Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the church in Michigan, criticized the lawsuit as “mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant.”
“It is imperative for the state law to be defended from yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life,” the organization said.
In 2015, when the law was signed, 25 percent of Michigan’s adoption and foster care agencies were faith-based. If they decline to work with same-sex couples, they’re required to give applicants a list of other providers.
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