LGBT, RFRA — June 1, 2015 at 7:54 am

Discriminatory adoption bills await vote by Michigan Senate


A “yes” vote in the Senate is all that stands between these RFRA-type bills and Governor Snyder’s signature.

Now that more than two months have passed since a package of discriminatory adoption bills was passed by the Michigan House, it might be easy to forget that many in the Michigan Legislature are eager to put their ideology ahead of the best interests of children in need. But make no mistake: These bills will come to a vote in the Senate eventually, and they are expected to pass.

House Bills 4188, 4189 and 4190 would allow child placement agencies to discriminate against families who want to adopt or become foster parents on the basis of the agencies’ “firmly held religious beliefs.” The bills do not include any provisions to protect the best interests of children — only the interests of adoption agencies. This, when there are 13,000 children in Michigan in foster care and in need of a forever home at any given time.

According to Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the ACLU of Michigan, a vote in the Senate is expected.

These bills are on their way to the governor’s desk, and we haven’t heard a commitment from Governor Snyder that he’s going to veto these bills. In the meantime, though, more and more organizations — including the Michigan Judges Association — and individuals are writing letters and speaking out against this legislation.

Governor Snyder has publicly stated that he’d veto so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation, but because these adoption bills aren’t specifically called RFRA bills it’s unclear what Governor Snyder’s position is.

But these adoption bills are, in fact, a type of RFRA legislation, because they are designed to protect faith-based adoption agencies — which receive state funding — who feel that serving people who don’t comply with the agency’s religious beliefs to be a burden on their religious freedom. These bills satisfy the interests of faith-based adoption agencies and their ideological supporters, and no one else.

Most at risk of discrimination is the LGBT community, but these bills open the door to discrimination against anyone. Both would-be parents and children of faiths different from the agencies in question could be denied service, along with single parents or anyone else the agency deems as going against their beliefs.

After passing the House in March with immediate effect, the bills were approved by a Senate committee in April for a vote by the full Senate.

During that Senate meeting, the committee heard from Tamya McGee, who once lived in temporary foster care herself. She wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Here’s part of what she had to say:

Rather than focusing on the needs of foster youth, these harmful adoption restrictions put the preferences of service providers above the best interests of our most vulnerable kids. I speak from experience. Having lived in temporary foster care, I know we need every willing, loving adult available to care for us when our own parents cannot.

Placement decisions should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis that assess interested parents on the safety of their home, the strengths of the family and the best interests of each individual child. But these bills allow providers to turn away gay and lesbian foster parents. The belief that LGBT parents are unfit has no factual evidence. It is only personal, biased beliefs that keep this myth afloat. …

Studies show that LGBT couples are four times more likely to adopt and six times more likely to foster children. Discriminatory bills like the ones being considered in Michigan are harmful to youth in care. As of 2013, there were 3,337 foster youth waiting for families. We need to open more doors to qualified parents, not close them.

HB 4188-90 could come before the Senate for a vote any day — so don’t wait to be heard. Equality Michigan has posted a petition you can use to speak out against these discriminatory bills.

You can also sign on to Freedom Michigan’s new RFRA Hurts campaign. In addition to staying updated on the latest news, you can contact your state Senator and Governor Snyder through the website.

You can also contact your state Senator and Governor Snyder directly, and tell them to vote NO on these bills. Michigan should put the best interests of children first.

[Image credit: Maestro Pastelero, via Flickr.]