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Court Says Adoption Agencies Can Turn Away Same-Sex Couples

Court Says Adoption Agencies Can Turn Away Same-Sex Couples

Ten states allow Christian agencies to discriminate in adoption and foster care placement.

Discrimination is again the law of the land in Michigan. On Thursday, a Grand Rapids judge rejected the attorney general's attempt to stop adoption centers from turning away to same-sex couples. The ruling allows state-funded agencies to deny placement to households that don't align with the organization's beliefs.

In March, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the state had reached a settlement after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of two same-sex couples that had been refused adoption services under its anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The Great Lakes State is one of 10 that allows religious agencies to discriminate against adoptive parents on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But after Nessel was elected in the 2018 midterms, she announced that as Michigan's first lesbian attorney general, she would not defend the discriminatory policy in court.

On Thursday, Judge Robert Jonker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued a preliminary injunction against the deal Nessel struck to end the ACLU litigation and stop faith-based discrimination against same-sex couples. Jonker, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled there's nothing discriminatory about St. Vincent Catholic Charities -- the organization at the center of the lawsuit -- acting in the name of its sincerely held religious beliefs.

The judge added that the St. Vincent Catholic Charities was being "targeted based on its religious belief," referring to comments in which Nessel referred to supporters of Michigan's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed in 2015, as "hatemongers."

"These statements raise a strong inference of a hostility toward a religious viewpoint," he said, saying Nessel's true intent is to "stamp out St. Vincent's religious belief and replace it with the State's own."

Nessel clarified, however, that her usage of the term "hate mongers" was not discriminatory in intent or targeted toward any particular religious group. Instead she claimed it was "directed at those who believe discrimination against [LGBTQ+] people in adoption using public tax dollars is ethical."

"[It] doesn't apply to the vast majority of Catholics, the biggest proponents of [LGBTQ+] rights of any Christian denomination," she said in an April tweet.

After the preliminary injunction was issued this week, Nessel added on Twitter that she would continue to "fight to support the constitutional precepts of separation of church and state and equal protection under the law for all Michigan residents and all Americans."

Nessel's office has not stated whether it plans to appeal the decision.

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