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Michigan bill would allow adoption agencies to deny services based on "sincere religious objection"

Mar 4, 2015

Adoptions by LGBT parents are at the center of this controversy.
Credit user stevendamrun / Flickr

A state House committee approved the legislation this morning.

The bills would allow agencies that take money from the state for placing children with families to turn away same-sex couples. There would have to be a sincere religious objection and a good-faith effort to refer the couples to another adoption service.

This morning's vote comes as arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage draw near.

The arguments should take place in late April. In the meantime, some faith-based adoption services say they don’t want to be forced into violating their religious beliefs if the court legalizes same-sex marriage.

Backers say it will ensure faith-based adoption services can continue to do their work no matter how the Supreme Court rules, but civil rights groups say it will allow the agencies to continue to discriminate and make it harder to place children in permanent homes.

A federal judge last year found research supporting that position to be a compelling reason to strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The legislation was approved in committee on party-line votes with Republicans voting for it and Democrats voting against. The package of bills, Michigan House bills 4188, 4189, and 4190, now go to the House floor.

The House Fiscal Agency summarized the bills impact. From that summary:

To the fullest extent permitted by state and federal law, a child placing agency (for adoption or foster care) could not be required to provide any services if those services conflicted with the agency's "sincerely held religious beliefs" contained in a written policy, statement of faith, or other document adhered to by the agency.  This applies also to referrals made by the Department of Human Services for foster care management or adoption services under a contract with the department.  An agency could decline such referrals.