June 12, 2015
Over 3,000 children are awaiting adoption in Michigan, yet on Thursday, June 11, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law permitting faith-based adoption agencies that receive public funding to discriminate against potential parents – including same-sex or unmarried couples – if doing so would violate the agencies' religious beliefs, leaving the needs of children on the sidelines. About half of the state’s funding for adoption services went to faith-based agencies last year, indicating many potential parents could be turned away.
The law’s passage comes at a time when LGBT couples and families are gaining unprecedented visibility and are awaiting a supreme court ruling on the freedom to marry. It is clearly backlash to these gains, and a cynical, politically-motivated attempt to enshrine discriminatory language into Michigan law.
All children should have access to stable, loving homes, and potential parents and caregivers should be judged on their ability to properly care for children in need, not on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many LGBT people, including LGBT people of faith, are eager to share in the joys of raising a family. Sadly, this law opens the door for discrimination and sends the wrong message to the children of Michigan.
“My wife and I are incredibly proud parents of our daughter. It pains me to think that some couples would be told they aren’t worthy to care for a child and have a loving family like mine simply because they are LGBT,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation. “This law isn’t in the best interest of families, and we can’t let more laws like it get through the legislature in Michigan or anywhere else.”
Federation member Equality Michigan's Interim Executive Director William Greene said, "Amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity against discrimination is needed now more than ever. I challenge the business community to step up and tell Governor Snyder that Michigan, in the minds of smart and talented workers across the world who are needed to help Michigan's economy grow, that we are now known as a state that is an unwelcoming place to work, much less live or visit."
In a powerful editorial, The Detroit Free Press called the law’s passage a “shameful moment for Michigan,” emphasizing that the Supreme Court is going to soon rule on the freedom to marry.
The Michigan legislature is expected to vote on a pending, broader religious exemption law this year which would be ripe for abuse opening the door to discrimination and unintended consequences while potentially clogging the courts with lawsuits.
When Indiana passed a religious exemption law, Governor Snyder said he wouldn’t sign any similar stand-alone laws. We hope he will keep his promise this time.
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