Opponents say adoption bill discriminates against gays and lesbians

Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill that would give faith-based agencies the right to deny adoptions to couples that don't fit their religious beliefs. But critics are stepping up saying it opens the door to discrimination while denying children loving homes.

There are more than 3,000 children in need of forever homes in the state of Michigan but some, including attorney Dana Nessel, say proposed legislation that's gaining traction in the statehouse will make it harder for some families to adopt those kids.

"I can't believe that this type of legislation is still under consideration," Nessel said.  "It should be about the best interest of the child. Period."

The legislation passed out of committee Wednesday and allows state-funded, faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to work with prospective parents based on the agency's religious or moral beliefs. It's been common practice for ages, one that many Catholic agencies will do: refuse service to gays or lesbians based on the church's religious beliefs. That practice could soon become law.

"This is money from the state this is taxpayers dollars that we're talking about," Nessel said.

Nessel represents April and Jayne Deboer-Rowse whose fight for same sex marriage is going to the Supreme Court. They have adopted four children and are foster parents for a fifth child. Studies show gays and lesbians are more likely to adopt children from foster care but their options for agencies are limited.

"I think that they're trying to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against families and we need to help these thousands of children that need adoption services find forever families," Sommer Foster with Equality Michigan said.

But the bill has strong support from some, like the Michigan Catholic Conference saying "Child placement legislation that passed out of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee this morning is in the best interest of vulnerable children and will help to secure a wide network of faith-based and secular providers in the state."

The conference notes that if an agency is not able to work with a person or couple because of its religious beliefs, they do not receive funds from the state. The state only reimburses after the placement is final.

"As has been stated numerous times, this legislation does not prohibit adoption to any classification of persons, but merely places into law what the state has practiced for decades," the statement said.

But opponents say what the state has practiced for decades is a policy of discrimination and lawmakers are now playing politics with the future of Michigan's most vulnerable children.

"These types of laws are a victory for the hate mongers but again a disaster for the children and the state," Nessel said.

The package of bills now heads to the State House for consideration where it's likely to pass, as it's done before. What happens next? That's still anybody's guess.

UPDATE: FOX 2 received this statement from Sara Wurfel at Gov. Snyder's Office: 

'What I'd say on this legislation is this ... that the governor has raised concerns in earlier and current versions - some have been addressed. We'll be closely reviewing latest changes and working with legislative partners. The governor and administration have a strong commitment to ensuring the most responsive, effective adoption system possible and we've made key progress in strengthening children's services and matching kids in foster care with permanent families. That is always the outcome we need to help meet.'

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