UPDATE: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has quickly signed a controversial package of bills that allow adoption agencies that contract with the state to turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.
The Michigan Senate approved a series of bills that would allow adoption agencies to refuse place a child with a same-sex couple, unmarried couple, or others, if doing so would violate the religious beliefs espoused by the agency.
Republican-backed House Bills 4188, 4189, and 4190 passed the state Senate Wednesday by a vote of 26-12, almost entirely along party lines, with Republicans giving the bills their blessing over objections from Democrats that the legislation would permit discrimination against gay couples.
The bills would immediately become law if they are signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. While he has expressed concerns the legislation could lead to lawsuits, according to WOOD-TV, he has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the measures. M-Live reported that Snyder was "closely reviewing" the bills.
"Gov. Snyder will be taking a close look at the bills once they are approved in both chambers and are formally presented," said Snyder spokesman Dave Murray in an emailed statement to the news site Between The Lines.
The so-called religious freedom bills also prohibit state and local government from rescinding funding to faith-based adoption agencies, even if the agency's policy violates a local nondiscrimination ordinance.
The Human Rights Campaign denounced the vote, with a statement from national field director Marty Rouse saying lawmakers in Michigan ignored “the outcry around the nation to stop the attacks on LGBT people and their families:”
“Governor Snyder has the opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of Indiana Governor Pence. Fair-minded Michiganders, corporations, business leaders, and major child advocacy organizations are united in saying this kind of extreme legislation is flat out wrong and sends the wrong message about the future of Michigan. Governor Snyder absolutely must veto this virulently anti-LGBT legislation.”
The legislation passed the state house in March.
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 in March 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 in March, according to the Huffington Post. "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]."
This is the second year Michigan Republicans have attempted to push this legislation forward; last year the bill died in the Senate without a vote before the end of the legislative session.
During Wednesday’s debate on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a Republican from Olive Township, encouraged his colleagues to support the legislation to "codify decades of practices."
"I'm the proud product of a faith-based adoption," Meekhof said.
The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles's School of Law reports that 250 Michigan foster kids are currently residing in LGB-headed households, and another 3,460 children had been adopted by LGB households.
The California-based organization reminded the Michigan legislature last month that in the U.S., 54 percent of lesbians report wanting to adopt children, while only 37 percent of heterosexual women reported such a desire. The organization said there was no comparable data on gay men versus straight men. The organization estimated there were 35,000 homes headed by LGB families available to adopt in Michigan:
"These individuals may not be considered as adoptive or foster parents or may not pursue adoption or fostering as a result of agencies' religious or moral objections to their sexual orientation or a fear that such objections could be raised."
"Gov. Snyder has claimed he wants to make Michigan a welcoming place and that he doesn't believe in discrimination. It's time for him to act on those supposed convictions and veto this dangerous legislation," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.
"Conservative elected officials have been hell-bent in their quest to enshrine discrimination into state law and this is the next chapter of that effort," continued Scott. "Discrimination has no place in Michigan and this legislation will ultimately hurt children, loving families, and the entire state. Gov. Snyder has the opportunity to prove that the welfare of children in our state is more important than partisan politics. We urge him to veto this bill immediately."
Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee, a Democrat, issued this statement from Washington, D.C.:
"It is astounding to me that Republicans in Lansing, rather than working to fix Michigan's crumbling roads, instead chose to spend their time today codifying discrimination into state law. This latest package of anti-LGBT bills does nothing to create jobs or spur our state's economy. Instead it gives the state a license to discriminate against loving Michigan families. The State Legislature should be ashamed of their misplaced priorities and I hope that Governor Snyder vetoes this package of extreme bills."