Antigay Adoption Bills Advance in Michigan, Florida

Antigay Adoption Bills Advance in Michigan, Florida

UPDATE: The bills passed the Senate and were sent to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder. Click here for the latest.

Legislation that would allow adoption agencies contracting with the state to refuse to place children with same-sex couples or LGBT people has moved forward in Michigan and Florida.

Michigan's House Bill 4188 would allow adoption agencies that receive state funding to refuse to serve or place children with prospective families if those families conflict with the organization's "sincerely held religious beliefs contained in a written policy," according to the Huffington Post

The legislation, along with two companion bills, passed the state House Wednesday, and now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Despite HB 4188's stated claim that "placing a child in a safe, loving, and supportive home is a paramount goal of this state," and that "having as many possible qualified adoption and foster parent agencies in this state is a substantial benefit to the children of this state who are in need of these placement services," the bill goes on to protect those adoption agencies from any "adverse action" by the state, including cutting public funding or "discriminating against the child placing agency."

House Democrats who rose in opposition to the legislation Wednesday said the bills are "not just a license to discriminate," according to Ann Arbor Democrat Rep. Jeff Irwin. "It's actually writing a check for the discrimination."

"No matter how well intentioned, these [bills] will produce bad results," said Rep. Jon Hoadley, according to HuffPost. "They put the best interest of the agency over the child, they are discriminatory ... They violate our state constitution by elevating some religious beliefs above others. ... They allow agencies to pick and choose what children they want to [serve]."

Similar legislation passed the Michigan House last year, but did not come to a vote in the Senate before the end of the legislative session. 

The Florida legislation, PCB HHSC 15-03, passed out of the state House of Representatives' Health and Human Services Committee Thursday on a party-line vote of 12-6, with all Democrats opposed, and all Republicans in support, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

If signed into law, the Florida bill would allow private adoption agencies — including those that contract with the state's foster care and adoption systems — to refuse to place children with families "that would violate the agency's religious or moral convictions." The legislation also revokes any existing legal recourse for prospective families who believe they've been discriminated against, and preemptively prevents the state from cutting funding to any organization that places children only with families consistent with the organization's religious beliefs. 

"This bill would be a huge blow for the children languishing in Florida's foster care system awaiting placement in loving, permanent homes," said the ACLU of Florida's director of public policy, Michelle Richardson, in a Thursday statement. "It would turn well-established child welfare law and practice on its head, allowing the interests of the agencies to trump the needs of the children for whom they are charged with caring."

Notably, just last week, Florida's House of Representatives approved a bill that would remove Florida's outdated, unconstitutional statute banning same-sex couples or gay or lesbian individuals from adopting children, notes the ACLU.