ACLU suit claims same-sex couples face bias in adoption

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Michigan for allegedly allowing faith-based adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of two Michigan couples and a foster parent and former foster child. The lawsuit challenges the religious exemptions for adoption agencies that contract with the state to find permanent homes for the children in Michigan’s foster care system.

In a news teleconference Wednesday organized by the ACLU of Michigan, a couple said they were turned away by two faith-based adoption agencies because they are lesbians.

Kristy and Dana Dumont said they were turned away by Catholic and Christian agencies because they are same-sex even though, the women said, they could offer a child a loving and secure home.

“We have a lot of love to give,” said Kristy Dumont, who was seeking to adopt an older child with her wife, Dana. “Obviously, we were devastated.”

In a statement Wednesday, the Michigan Catholic Conference defended the 2015 law that grants a religious exemption for adoption agencies.

“It is completely dishonest for out-of-state, litigious entities to allege a ‘ban’ on adoptions in Michigan,” the statement said. “This state is nationally recognized for having secured a diverse and tolerant child placement environment with the 2015 law.”

ACLU lawyer Leslie Cooper said 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system are waiting for permanent homes. She said the children languish in foster care or age out of the system because of the lack of available adoptive homes or families.

Discriminating against sex-same couples who want to adopt children out of the foster care system makes matters worse for children waiting for loving parents and stable homes, Cooper said.

Cooper, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in 2015 that essentially allows adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples for religious reasons.

Besides Michigan, six other states allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples, Cooper said. They are Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Mississippi and Virginia.

“It’s common practice with some religious-based agencies to the point they are being given directives from their religious leaders which impact their policies,” said Matt Wollack, vice president of strategic development for Wolverine Human Services, the state’s largest foster care, adoption and independent living agency.

Wollack said his organization does “not prefer nor believe that our state tax dollars (should) be spent in discriminatory practices.”

“Our motto is: Any child. Any parent. Any time,” he said.

Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, said “the issue is the difference between finding a permanent and loving home (for children in foster care) or remaining in the system.”

Heidi McIntosh of the National Association of Social Workers said the adoption agencies that deny same-sex couples the opportunity to adopt children are “creating a climate where kids are denied a loving family and remaining in foster care.”

The lawsuit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.

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