Federal Judge Rules that Case Challenging State Support of Discriminatory Adoption Agencies Can ProceedBy Shane Stahl • September 14, 2018 • 5:52 pm
In a significant court ruling today, a U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan denied a motion to dismiss a case brought by two married, lesbian couples who sought to adopt children in foster care and were turned down by state-contracted and taxpayer-supported foster and adoption placing agencies based on religious opposition to same-sex couples.
The case of Dumont v. Lyon, brought by the ACLU on behalf of Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, charges that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services improperly allows religious organizations that contract with and are funded by the state to place children with foster and adoptive families to discriminate against same-sex couples.
Judge Borman’s ruling details the two couples’ allegations that they were turned away by St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services because of those organizations’ religious disapproval of same-sex couples. His ruling concludes that the couples’ allegations, if proven, will allow them to challenge Michigan’s funding of faith-based agencies that discriminate based on sexual orientation, and will demonstrate that this violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and Equal Protection Clause. Now, the case will proceed and ultimately, a ruling will be issued on the merits of whether Michigan’s law authorizing such refusals is constitutional or not.
A similar case was decided earlier this year in Pennsylvania, when a federal court refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the City of Philadelphia terminating its contract with a faith-based adoption agency that refuses to serve same-sex couples based on the agency’s religious beliefs.
Legislation that would permit adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people has been presented in many states; both Georgia and Colorado have seen these efforts fail. However, this past legislative session, both Oklahoma and Kansas passed laws allowing this type of discrimination, bringing the total number of states with similar laws up to ten.
Studies have shown that a majority of Americans believe that discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption is wrong; two-thirds believe that taxpayer dollars should not be given to agencies that will use them to discriminate against LGBTQ people. There are tens of thousands of children in adoption and foster care systems across the country, and more than 2 million prospective LGBTQ parents looking to adopt or foster, including both older children and differently-abled children. We are glad to see the court standing on the side of LGBTQ prospective parents. Learn more from our partners at the Family Equality Council’s campaign, Every Child Deserves a Family.