Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has quickly signed controversial legislation allowing adoption agencies that contract with the state to turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.
The new law takes effect immediately -- in advance of the anticipated ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Michigan's same-sex marriage ban.
"The state has made significant progress in finding more forever homes for Michigan kids in recent years and that wouldn't be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process," said Snyder in a statement.
"We are focused on ensuring that as many children are adopted to as many loving families as possible regardless of their makeup."
In a statement on its website, the Human Rights Campaign
denounced the law. "Governor Rick Snyder has proven today that he has utter disdain for the welfare of children in Michigan and that he cares only about empowering backwards discrimination," said Chad Griffin, president of HRC.
, the new law, which largely codifies an existing Department of Human Services policy, seeks to stop "adverse action" against a private agency that contracts with the state to provide adoption services, including any attempt to strip state funding.
If an agency rejects a prospective parent on religious grounds, they would have to refer that parent to another agency and provide them with a written list of options.
In announcing the signing, Snyder's office provided MLive with letters to the governor from the Michigan Catholic Conference and Bethany Christian Services, saying the agencies combine to provide roughly 25 to 30 percent of all foster care adoptions in the state.
The letter Bethany sent to Snyder warned that future policies may force faith-based agencies to "choose between their desire to help children and families and their fidelity to their religious principles."
MLive reported that religiously affiliated agencies in some other states, including Illinois closed their doors rather than comply with new regulations there requiring them to work with same-sex couples.
passed the state House in March and the Senate Wednesday.
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 TheHuffington 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, 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, 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 reported 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 people 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."