Written by Don Byrd

The State of Michigan has resolved a lawsuit with the ACLU over policy which previously allowed faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funds to refuse placement with certain prospective parents in accordance with the agency’s religious beliefs. Attorney General Dana Nessel, newly elected to the post in 2018, determined that a 2015 law that allowed such discrimination does not apply to agencies that operate using state funds.

Here is an excerpt from a statement from the AG’s office:

When AG Nessel took office Jan. 1, 2019, she reviewed the facts of the case with her team of legal experts and determined that MDHHS could be subject to liability on the claims of the plaintiffs.  As a result, the Attorney General strongly recommended resolving the case on terms consistent with the law and existing agency contracts and that best serve the health, safety and well-being of children in need of state-contracted foster care case management and adoption services. 

The plaintiffs and the Michigan Department of Attorney General, on behalf of its client MDHHS, entered into negotiations and agreed to settle the case.  Under the terms of the settlement agreement, MDHHS agrees to maintain non-discriminatory provisions in its foster care and adoption agency contracts.  MDHHS also agrees to enforce the non-discrimination provisions up to and including termination when a state-contracted agency discriminates against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals that may otherwise be qualified foster care or adoptive parents for any child accepted by the agency for services under contract with MDHHS.

The settlement ends a lawsuit brought in 2017. A federal judge ruled in 2018 that the plaintiff in the case had plausibly alleged that the state’s practice of contracting with faith-based agencies and permitting them to turn away couples in accordance with their religious beliefs violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Catholic Charities, a defendant in the case, claims in a statement that the settlement “violates state law,” and could result in “thousands of children” being unable to find home.

For more, USNews reports on this development.