A federal judge has blocked a policy in Michigan banning state contracts with adoption agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan ACLU previously announced the policy in March after lesbian couples complained that St. Vincent Catholic Charities had refused to work with them because of their sexual orientation.
Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids has now issued a preliminary injunction and says the policy is discriminatory towards St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
“What St. Vincent has not done and will not do is give up its traditional Catholic belief that marriage, as instituted by God, is for one man and one woman,” the judge wrote in his official opinion about the case.
Jonker takes specific issue with Nessel and says the attorney general is biased towards religion.
“She made it clear that she considered beliefs like St. Vincent’s to be the product of hate,” Jonker wrote of Nessel.
As for St. Vincent’s, the judge said the organization “has exercised its discretion to ensure that it is not in the position of having to review and recommend to the state whether to certify a same-sex or unmarried couple, and to refer those cases to agencies that do not have a religious confession preventing an honest evaluation and recommendation.”
The judge argued in his opinion that Michigan had previously acted to protect such religious choice, but that only changed recently with Nessel.
“After her election, she reversed the course … re-interpreted the law; and put St. Vincent in the position of either giving up its belief or giving up its contract with the state. That kind of targeted attack on a sincerely held religious belief is what calls for strict scrutiny in this case and supports entry of a preliminary injunction preserving the status quo while the case is fulling litigated,” he wrote.
St. Vincent’s was joined in their fight by adoptive parents Chad and Melissa Buck, and Shamber Flore, a former foster child, who all spoke of the good work they believe the organization has done. The Bucks adopted five children through St. Vincent’s, and Flore found a loving family through them.
“[St. Vincent’s] has been with us every step of our journey: answering every phone call, coming with us to doctor’s appointments, even bringing us food, as we strive to give our five beautiful children the best future they can have,” Melissa Buck said.
“St. Vincent brought our family together, and I’m happy to know they can keep doing their great work helping children find homes,” she added.
Becket, the non-profit representing St. Vincent’s, said the organization “recruited more new adoptive families than nearly 90 percent of the other agencies in its service area” in 2017.
Despite this, they argued that St. Vincent’s was “targeted by the attorney general of Michigan simply because of their beliefs about same-sex marriage.”
“Our nation is facing a foster care crisis, and we are so glad that Michigan’s foster children will continue having all hands on deck to help them find loving forever homes,” Lori Windham, Becket’s senior counsel, said about the recent decision by Jonker. “The Bucks and St. Vincent Catholic Charities won a victory in Michigan, but there is still work to be done to ensure that faith-based agencies can contribute to ending our nation’s foster care crisis.”
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