State-Funded Michigan Adoption Agencies Must Now Work with LGBT Parents

A recently settled lawsuit in Michigan now protects the rights of LGBT parents to work with state-funded adoption agencies — free of discrimination.

First, a little history: Back in 2017, the ACLU sued the state of Michigan over a case where two lesbian couples claimed they were rejected as adoptive parents by a state-funded adoption agency. The couples claimed the rejection was because of their sexual orientation.

Last week, on March 22, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reached a settlement over the case with the ACLU — the terms of which state that faith-based, state-funded adoption agencies in Michigan can no longer be legally allowed to turn away same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals based on religious objection. The settlement recognizes that the state’s previous law allowing for such actions on religious grounds actually violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

In a statement, Nessel said, “Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale. Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”

The legal agreement requires the state to terminate any contracts with agencies that fail to comply with the non-discrimination standards, taking away state funds from professionals who continue their discriminatory practices.

In response to the Michigan settlement, the ACLU released a statement, saying, “This is a victory for our clients, other same-sex couples in Michigan, and most importantly, the children in Michigan’s child welfare system, who will now have access to more loving and qualified families.”

This legal move out of Michigan stands in stark contrast with many recently implemented laws across the nation. States such as Kansas and Texas have passed laws that allow state-funded, faith-based organizations to reject LGBT would-be parents on the grounds of religious beliefs. The Trump administration also recently granted a waiver to federally funded South Carolina agencies, allowing them to turn away would-be parents based on religious beliefs.

Individual state rulings do more than just affect would-be LGBT adoptive parents in that state. A recent report from the Center for American Progress concludes that the increasing discrimination against LGBT parents directly impacts the number of children in state custody — many of whom are waiting for permanent homes that these parents could provide. In fact, LGBT parents are six times more likely to be raising foster children than heterosexual couples.

While Michigan religious advocacy groups are already promising to challenge the settlement, there’s no denying the news out of Michigan is a great step forward for the many would-be LGBT adoptive parents who live there — and the thousands of children currently in foster care custody.

While LGBT parents are federally protected in their right to adopt, their right to work with certain agencies is not. In states where laws such as Michigan’s do not exist, it’s crucial that hopeful adoptive parents seek out agencies that are LGBT-friendly and will advocate for their adoption rights every step of the way.

Learn more about adopting as an LGBT individual here.

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