Catholic Adoption Agency Sues Michigan for New Rules Forcing Religious Agencies to Work With Same-sex Couples

An adoptive mother, a former foster child, and a Michigan faith-based adoption agency are challenging a recent state settlement that bans state contracts with foster and adoption agencies that refuse to work with gay couples.

St. Vincent Catholic Charities, former foster child Shamber Flore and Melissa Buck, a mother of five special needs kids adopted through St. Vincent, filed Monday a federal lawsuit. They alleged the new rules violated the group’s First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech, the group’s 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and those rights guaranteed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The agency is represented by religious liberty group, Becket Law.

The lawsuit is filed against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, Children’s Services Agency Director Herman McCall, Attorney General Dana Nessel, the federal Health and Human Services department and its secretary, Alex Azar.

The lawsuit asks the court to stop the state from ending contracts with agencies that, because of their religious beliefs, refer same-sex couples to other adoption agencies. The lawsuit also requests nominal damages and legal costs.

Adoption agencies have “sole discretion” to invoke their religious beliefs when deciding whether to accept a state referral, but those agencies forfeit that discretion when they accept a referral, Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.

“If you’re doing business with us, and in this case the business is placing children, then you cannot discriminate,” Rossman-McKinney said.

In a Monday statement announcing the lawsuit, Buck, of Holt, said her family still relies on the support of St. Vincent “in every step of our journey together as a family” and could have problems should the family look to adopt siblings of their adopted children through St. Vincent in the future.

“We are hopeful that the courts will step in, do the right thing and allow faith-based agencies to continue to help vulnerable families like mine,” Buck said.

In March, Nessel reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and two gay couples who had sued the state when they were rejected by agencies with religious objections to same-sex couples. The agencies were St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services.

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SOURCE: The Detroit News, Beth LeBlanc