The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday the filing of a landmark lawsuit challenging LGBT adoption/foster care discrimination practices in Michigan. The lawsuit argues that these practices violate the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. In 2015, the Michigan legislature passed a law that some interpret as permitting religiously motivated discrimination against prospective families by state-contracted child placement agencies.
“When the state contracts with private child placement agencies to find foster and adoptive families for children in its custody, those agencies cannot turn away families based on religious criteria, just as the state would not be permitted to do,” said Leslie Cooper, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.
On the heels of the lawsuit, the Movement Advancement Project unveiled a national ad and policy report underscoring the potential dangers that adoption-related religious exemption laws pose to children. The ‘Kids Pay the Price’ ad, released in partnership with the Child Welfare League of America and the National Association of Social Workers, was targeted to debut on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” but was then rejected by the network. While the ad is dramatized, it vividly depicts the harms children can face when agencies and workers are allowed to prioritize their individual beliefs over the best interest of children.
“Politicians are passing these laws, so it’s important for the public to understand how these laws can hurt kids,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the MAP. “Fox News Channel’s refusal to air the ad suggests that the consequences kids may experience as a result of these laws are so negative that it’s better to let these laws pass unchecked than to ask news audiences to grapple with how harmful and troubling these laws really are. Sweeping these issues under the rug simply means more kids in harm’s way.”
Laws and practices similar to the those being challenged by the ACLU in Michigan exist in six other states and are being considered nationally. This year alone, South Dakota, Alabama and Texas passed legislation permitting state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs, joining Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia and Michigan for a total of seven states with such laws. Congress is also considering H.R. 1881, a federal bill that would cut federal funding for child welfare services by 15 percent to any state that passes or enforces nondiscrimination requirements for child services organizations.