ACLU sues Michigan over gay adoption screening

ACLU sues Michigan over gay adoption screening
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Michigan state officials for allowing state-funded adoption agencies to turn away prospective LGBT parents.  

The civil rights group in a complaint filed Wednesday claims the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and Children’s Services Agency is violating the U.S. Constitution by permitting the private agencies it contracts with to use religious criteria to screen prospective foster and adoptive parents and to turn away qualified families on the basis of sexual orientation.

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By law, the ACLU said the state is responsible for the care of the children in Michigan’s foster care system and can neither categorically turn away gay and lesbian prospective parents nor use religious criteria in making decisions related to child welfare.

And because private agencies are contracted to run the state’s adoption and foster care services, the group argues in its 22-page complaint that they must follow the same laws as the state.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Michigan Southern Division, is being brought on behalf of two same-sex couples and a woman who was in the Michigan foster care system when she was a teenager.

The ACLU said it’s hoping the lawsuit will bring attention to states that allow this form of discrimination.

The group is also pushing back against a Republican-backed bill reintroduced in the House in April by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) to penalize states for taking adverse actions against a child welfare service provider that refuses to provide services that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral beliefs.

Under the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017, 15 percent of federal funds for child welfare programs would be withheld from states that refuse to contract with or penalize agencies for their religious beliefs.

“There is no good reason why any of these care providers should be disqualified from working with their government to serve America’s families simply because of their deeply-rooted religious beliefs,” Kelly said in a statement in April.

“When it comes to helping kids and making families stronger, all service providers – religious or otherwise – should have a seat at the table. That’s what this bill is about. It is 100 percent inclusive and child-focused. No provider should ever be forced to violate their faith in order to help give each kid a loving and caring family.”