A federal judge earlier this month ruled that a Michigan lawsuit challenging religious adoption and foster agencies that won’t place children with same-sex couples will move forward.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its Michigan chapter sued the heads of Michigan’s Health and Human Services and Children’s Services Agency on behalf of two same-sex couples who were turned away from St. Vincent’s Catholic Services and Bethany Christian Services when they tried to adopt a child in foster care, according to The Detroit News. The plaintiffs in the suit, Dumont v. Lyon, asked U.S. District Judge Paul Borman to bar the state from entering into contracts with or providing taxpayer money to private agencies that won’t place children with same-sex couples. St. Vincent’s asked Borman to throw out the case on First Amendment grounds, but he declined.
The ACLU argues that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it illegal for the government to work with religious organizations, according to Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, the law firm defending St. Vincent’s. But, he added, “the Establishment Clause says and does no such thing.” Rienzi told me it was clear the lawsuit is trying to shut down St. Vincent’s.
“I think the whole case is a shame,” he said. “It seems like an unnecessary culture war fight. St. Vincent’s does great work and helps lots of children, and they are doing a good job, and it seems to be in the interest of families and kids to continue to allow them to do that.”
Rienzi pointed out that the couples in question are not barred from adopting in Michigan, and they drove past other agencies who would have assisted them on their way to St. Vincent’s.
Alabama, Texas, Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota currently have laws that allow state-contracted agencies to refuse placements on religious grounds, all of which could come under scrutiny if the ACLU wins the Michigan case. —Rachel Lynn Aldrich