DETROIT (AP) — The Democratic candidate for Michigan attorney general said Thursday she probably wouldn’t defend a law that allows faith-based groups to refuse serving same-sex couples who want to adopt children.
Dana Nessel, who is gay, told The Associated Press there’s “no viable defense” to the 2015 law, which is being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of same-sex couples.
Groups such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services are paid by the state to place children from troubled families with new families, either through adoption or foster care. But the law says they aren’t required to provide services that conflict with their beliefs. Same-sex couples say they’ve been told to go elsewhere.
The ACLU contends Michigan is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing groups to use a religious test to carry out public services. Nessel, who was part of the legal team that overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage, agrees.
“The purpose is to discriminate against people,” she said. “It means fewer children adopted into nurturing, loving and otherwise qualified homes.”
Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office is defending the law in court, a routine practice when the state is sued. But if elected, Nessel said she has an obligation to “weigh the pros and cons.”
“I would probably be telling the Legislature they would have to defend that with private counsel,” she said of the adoption law. “I could not justify using the state’s money defending a law whose only purpose is discriminatory animus.”
The lawsuit was filed a year ago and recently cleared a major hurdle when U.S. District Judge Paul Borman declined to dismiss it. That means the next attorney general will inherit the case after Jan. 1.
Nessel’s Republican opponent, Tom Leonard, said her stance is “absolutely dangerous.”
“She’s running to be emperor of Lansing. It’s not the role of the attorney general to pick and choose the laws to enforce,” Leonard said.
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