AG right to stop discrimination by adoption agencies
Michigan will no longer spend taxpayer dollars to fund adoption agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ parents.
Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the change in policy last month as part of the settlement to a lawsuit initiated in 2017 by two same-sex couples, one from Lansing and one from Detroit.
The state is ready for this change.
Gay marriage has been legal in the U.S. since 2015, the result of a Supreme Court decision Nessel helped initiate in a previous role working with a lesbian couple in Madison Heights.
That same year, Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill to uphold the right of adoption agencies to refuse working with same-sex couples due to religious conviction.
Now, it’s time for that to change.
Nessel’s decision last month follows on her 2018 campaign promises to fight for LGBTQ equality, made during her bid for state attorney general that she won by a narrow margin.
And it won’t be a simple change: Of 59 private agencies the state contracts with, at least 20 are closely affiliated with religious organizations — and their work has been, and should continue to be a vital part of the process to find families for children who need homes.
The decision is not meant to diminish the role of religious agencies; contracting with them is simply part of how it’s always been done in Michigan and the number of children placed by these groups each year is laudable, and absolutely should continue.
But not with state funding.
Some 13,000 Michigan children are currently in foster care — about 300 currently waiting for an adoptive family, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Having a larger pool of families to choose from will only benefit the system and the children who find themselves in it, and will outweigh any short-term impacts felt by shifts in funding structure.
And the state must not be permitted to sanction discrimination against qualified parents, even though religious agencies have the right to do so in private adoptions.
LGBTQ parents must be allowed to adopt and foster children from any state-funded agency.
In a statement following last month’s settlement, Nessel said, “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 push for equal rights for LGBTQ people is happening across the U.S. — more than 20 states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and Michigan seems on the cusp of updating the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
It’s time for Michigan to take this next step.