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

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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Tunisia

Ya Burnt!

Greg S.

We are a gay couple who adopted our daughter 3 years ago in Michigan, with the aid of Bethany Christian Services and our amazing adoption counselor. We were hesitant at first based upon the faith-based component, but our experience was great and never once did we feel discrimination. I am saddened to hear that everyone's experience does not mirror ours, and hope that these agencies see that they can be incredibly helpful in spreading love and creating families for those who cannot on their own.

Anonymous

Tennessee's private agencies are doing the same although DCS is relatively LGBT friendly.

Anonymous

What happened to ECDFA efforts?

Angry

why are people bitter

sad

i agree with angry

Anonymous

Nothing is wrong with christianity and it frustrates me to see people blame it on them. Yes, they should keep their faith uninvolved in their work-life but that doesn't mean that they are bad people. They have their faith to live by just as you have yours. People make christians out to be some sort of "monster" when really christians are just trying to follow what they believe in just as you have every right to stand your grounds in what you believe in. The problem isn't with christians but with people who put the blame on others because they aren't justified with accepting other peoples values. You learn that christians are very accepting and loving if you just take the chance to hear what they have to say before shutting down. They may have some christians that are rude but that can be in any religion. So, it is not fair to hate all christians just because you haven't had a good experience. This is not me disagreeing with the fact that same sex couples should be able to adopt.

Anonymous

Forcing these organizations to go against their faith is ludacris! They help children due to their faith. There are plenty of non religious agencies that help gay and lesbian couples to foster/adopt. Last I checked this country was founded on the basis of religious freedom . Asking someone to participate in something that goes against their principles is just plain wrong. You want your rights, but no one else is entitled to theirs. Most of these organizations would close their doors rather than go against their faith, then how many children have you helped?

triangular

Agencies in other states are violating the law left and right in this regard, but none of the civil liberties or LGBT organizations will help. Massachusetts is notorious for denying LGBT foster/adoptive parents based on completely fabricated reasons. The workers have complete discretion. Denied for not having enough bedrooms, family appeals and says the number of bedrooms in the report is wrong, DCF hearing officer says, well, that’s how many the homophobic worker said you had, so too bad. When families contact the ACLU, HRC, GLAD, etc., they just say they won’t help because there are already laws in place prohibiting discrimination. If these organizations actually want to help LGBT foster parents and foster youth, why don’t they actually get involved in these situations and expose the state agencies?

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