US state sued over limits to adoptions by gay couples

Chicago (AFP) –


A civil rights group Wednesday sued Michigan over a law allowing agencies to deny adoptions to gay couples on religious grounds, challenging legislative efforts gaining momentum in some US states.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit seeks to limit which agencies can claim objections, by asking a Detroit federal court to rule that an agency accepting taxpayer money must accommodate all applicants without "religious litmus tests."

"Decisions about adoption and foster family placements should be made based on the needs of the child, not the religious beliefs of the agency," ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan said, adding that more families are needed, not fewer, for the 13,000 children in Michigan's child welfare system.

The number of religious exemption laws have nearly doubled this year, with seven states now having laws that allow religious-based discrimination against same-sex couples who want to adopt or foster children.

Texas, a strongly Republican state that is the nation's second most populous, was one of three to enact such laws this year.

The ACLU is challenging one of the key tenets in such laws -- that taxpayer-funded organizations can discriminate based on religious beliefs.

"Government services must not be provided based on religious standards and taxpayer money must not be used to fund agencies that discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation," ACLU attorney Leslie Cooper said.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of two couples and an adopted teenager. One of the couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont, said they were turned down by two child placement agencies contracted by the state.

"We are ready to open our home and our hearts to a child, but were rejected because we're a same-sex couple," Kristy Dumont said in a statement.

Michigan's law was passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2015 and signed by the state's Republican governor. His office pointed to letters it received from religious-based adoption groups who said having to serve married gay couples might force them out of adoption work.

Bethany Christian Services wrote in its letter that requiring religious groups to accept gay parents requires agencies "to abandon their faith or abandon the children they serve."

"That is an untenable choice, one that inevitably results in fewer resources available to recruit families and place children in loving homes."