In the run up to the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, a Michigan Senate panel approved three bills this week that would make it legal for adoption agencies to deny service to would-be parents whose religious views they do not approve of. If the legislation passes, faith-based service providers in Michigan will be able to legally turn away same-sex couples who want to adopt a child.
The Detroit Free Press reports that roughly half of federal and state funds for adoption agencies in the state of Michigan go to religiously affiliated organizations. Out of $19.9 million in public money for Michigan adoption and foster care in the state's 2014-2015 budget year, almost $10 million of that went to faith-based agencies.
"It offends me that my taxpayer dollars are going to an agency that feels I'm not worthy of being a parent," Matthew Bode tells the Detroit Free Press. Bode is a reverend at the Detroit Cooperative Parish. He and his husband are in the process of adopting two children.
Defenders of the Michigan Senate's Families, Seniors, and Human Services Committee's discriminatory bill include State Representative Eric Leutheuser, a Republican from Hillsdale. Before Leutheuser was elected to the Michigan legislature, he spent decades selling cars and managing the family dealership in Hillsdale. In his run for office, Leutheuser campaigned on reforming the state's no-fault auto insurance policy.
Leutheuser disagrees with the characterization that the legislation he's sponsoring means that adoption agencies will be able to "refuse service" to gay people. "It's more appropriate to say recuse and refer," Leutheuser tells the Detroit Free Press. "Faith-based agencies need to be able to recuse themselves from adoptions that would go against their faith-based beliefs."
What's next for the legislation? It moves to the full Senate for consideration. Then, if it passes, the bill goes to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Snyder for final approval.
Snyder has been noncommittal about whether he'd sign a law making it possible for publicly subsidized adoption agencies to discriminate against gay people. The Detroit Free Press reports that Snyder is "in favor of children being adopted by 'loving families' and 'loving parents.' He didn't specify if that included same-sex couples."
The statehouse in Alabama is pushing through religious adoption bills as well. The House State Government Committee voted Wednesday to allow adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.