Legislative Democrats Introduce Bills to Overturn Adoption Discrimination

Proposal treats all families equally, ends funding for faith-based discrimination
Thursday, August 20, 2015

LANSING – Legislative Democrats are introducing legislation today that would modify the adoption discrimination bills signed into law earlier this year. The new laws allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse placements with same-sex couples, unmarried couples and any other couple or person based on the agency’s religious beliefs. Bills introduced this week would change the law by allowing the state to remove funding for agencies that use their own faith as a reason to discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants.

 “The adoption discrimination bills should never have been passed and signed into law in the first place,” said Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park). “It’s a remarkable step backward for our state when we create legal loopholes to discriminate against our neighbors. Making it possible to remove state funding from agencies that choose to discriminate is the right thing to do.”

The adoption discrimination bills were signed into law in early June. Later that month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that marriage is a right available to same-sex as well as straight couples. In addition, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status.

“When developing statewide adoption policies, we should be focused on finding safe and loving ‘forever families’ for Michigan children,” said Senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights). “Due respect should always be given to the religious beliefs of adoption agencies. However, state dollars should never be used to discriminate against those who are ready and willing to adopt.”

Michigan’s adoption discrimination bills were signed into law despite a public outcry against them, and the American Civil Liberties Union has said that it is considering avenues to challenge the constitutionality of the laws.

“Michigan should always put the needs of a child waiting for adoption ahead of the desire of an adoption agency to discriminate,” Rep. Alberta Tinsley Talabi (D-Detroit) said. “In our state, we have approximately 3,000 children waiting for adoption at any given time. We should be doing all we can to place these children in permanent homes, not creating laws that turn away people who simply want to give a child a loving family.”

Bills in the package are House Bill 4840, sponsored by Rep. Wittenberg; HB 4841 sponsored by Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo); and HB 4842, sponsored by Rep. Talabi.

“Recently passed bills that allow adoption and foster care agencies to deny services based on ‘religious beliefs or moral convictions’ are not only discriminatory and outdated, but keep thousands of children needlessly waiting for good homes,” said Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). “This legislation will put our kids first and ensure that foster and adoption agencies are acting in their best interests.”