Same-Sex Couples Are Being Turned Away From Becoming Foster and Adoptive Parents in Michigan. So We’re Suing.

UPDATE: Lawsuit settled!

The state of Michigan announced on March 22, 2019, that it will require all taxpayer funded, state-contracted child welfare agencies to accept all qualified families, including same-sex couples. It will no longer permit agencies to turn away same-sex couples based on their religious objection to these families. 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.

Michigan is the first state to reverse course on this issue. Eight states still allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to use religious eligibility criteria to turn away foster and adoptive families who are same-sex couples, members of minority faiths, and otherwise don’t meet the agency’s religious test.

Like many other states, Michigan outsources child welfare services to private agencies. These agencies enter into contracts with the state to care for children in the foster care system — including finding them appropriate foster and adoptive families — and are paid with taxpayer dollars to do this critical work.

Michigan has 13,000 children in the foster care system. Like most states, it doesn’t have enough families willing and able to meet their needs. Because of the shortage of foster and adoptive families, some children are placed in foster families far from their families, schools and friends. Some are separated from siblings or placed in group homes. Some children wait years for an adoptive family and some age out of foster care without ever becoming part of a family.

Despite the need for more families to care for the state’s most vulnerable children, the

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services permits child placement agencies to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families headed by same-sex couples based on their religious objections. Many agencies doing child placement work in Michigan are faith-based agencies, some of which have religious objections to placing children with same-sex couples.

Couples like Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton experienced this discrimination first-hand. Having seen recruitment emails featuring photos and bios of children in foster care waiting to be adopted, Kristy and Dana were moved and felt they could provide a loving family for a child in need. They contacted a state-contracted agency to start the process. When the agency representative learned they were two women, she told them the agency does not work with same-sex couples. Kristy and Dana made another attempt with another agency and got the same answer. Erin and Rebecca had a similar experience when they reached out to an agency about adopting a child out of foster care.

Michigan can’t afford to have families like the Dumonts and the Busk-Suttons turned away based on criteria that have nothing to do with their ability to care for a child. Allowing state-contracted agencies to screen out prospective families based on religious criteria not only harms the children most in need, it is also unconstitutional. It violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which bars the use of religious criteria in the provision of government services like foster care and adoption services for children in state custody. And it violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against same-sex couples.

That’s why the ACLU is suing in federal district court.

Unfortunately, Michigan is not the only state that allows child placement agencies to reject same-sex couples based on religious objections. Just this past year, Alabama, South Dakota and Texas passed laws allowing precisely that. There are similar laws in North Dakota, Virginia, and Mississippi. It’s not just same-sex couples that are at risk. Most of these laws also would allow an agency to reject families that don’t share its faith, single-parent families, or any other kind of family that doesn’t meet its religious criteria.

We are hopeful that we will get a ruling in this case that will send a message to state legislatures that the Constitution does not permit these kinds of laws.

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Article I mandates Congress to enact all laws necessary to enforce the U.S. Constitution.

The Roberts' Supreme Court also explicitly ruled that adoption by LGBT patents posed absolutely no harm to children.

Under Article VI, when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on constitutionality - it's the "supreme law of the land" in the United States. The court has already explicitly approved of these parents having equal rights.


I H.A.T.E. Christianity. It has yet to pay for, and learn from, the discrimination it has created and benefited from.


According to the NPR article they were given a list of non-Catholic adoption agencies that would help them adopt. Their ability to adopt was not hindered.


To the person saying their access to adoption wasn't hindered, telling someone "you can go eat somewhere else" doesn't mean its not discrimination.


I was adopted as a kid by my two dads in the 90s and I grew up well rounded and well educated. I loved my life with my parents and appreciate they love me so much and decided to take care me. There is nothing wrong with gay or lesbian couples as parents. If it weren't for my parents I would have been lost in the system and probably a drug addicted alcoholic, like so many become.

Give these kids a chance at a good life.


Aww this is so sweet! Bless your dads for choosing you special and giving you a lifetime of love and family that you may not have otherwise had. I am a Christian and a STRONG ally of the LGBT community. It's such a disservice to children and people to not let them go to a home with two dads or moms. The people and agencies that do not allow this will reap what they sow.


Is the SPLC covering this too? I don't donate to the ACLU because I don't want my money going toward defending neo-nazis and the KKK.


Don't be scared of free speech.


According to the NPR article (and NPR is ridiculously liberal for a tax payer funded new organization) the 2 agencies the Dumonts tried were both Catholic. That sounds like a set-up to me. Did they try a non-Catholic agency so they could actually adopt or did they just do this for the sake of starting a lawsuit?

Sha’Kia Smith

It doesn’t matter who they tried, they have a right just like everyone else to adopt and build a family. Their orientation has absolutely nothing to do with it.


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