September of last year, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of two lesbian couples seeking to adopt from religious foster placement services in Michigan. The state of Michigan’s current policy affords adoption agencies, in spite of state contracts and funding, to discriminate based on religious objections.
Yesterday, a Detroit federal district ruled that the ACLU’s case can move forward.
The American Civil Liberties Union argued that permitting state-contracted, taxpayer-funded agencies to exclude prospective parents based on religious objections to homosexual relationships violates the Constitution. The plaintiffs, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, who seek to provide forever families to children in the foster care system, were turned away by two state-contracted agencies because they are lesbian couples.
This is similar to a ruling in Philadelphia in July. Two faith-based foster care agencies brought suit against Philadelphia, claiming the city violated their religious freedom by requiring agencies to accept all qualified families — including same-sex couples — in public foster care work. The Philadelphia Court denied the agencies’ claim.
The Detroit court recognized that the First Amendment requires state-contracted agencies to comply with non-discrimination requirements. That means agencies can’t use religious criteria to exclude gay and lesbian couples.
Leslie Cooper, deputy director of ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, issued the following statement in response:
“In America right now, there are over 118,000 children in the foster care system awaiting adoption. Allowing good families to be turned away because they don’t meet a religious litmus test denies children families they desperately need. The use of religious standards for participation in a government program also violates the Constitution. Couples like Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, who want to open their hearts and homes to a child in need, should be judged on one thing: their capacity to provide love and support to a child, not whether they pass a religious test.”
As AfterEllen has reported, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, Kansas and Florida have all passed or are preparing to pass religious “right of refusal laws” to circumvent First Amendment rights of same-sex couples.
These federal court cases are the first step in ruling these state laws unconstitutional.