Michigan lawmakers advance bills protecting faith-based adoption agencies

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

LANSING, Mich. (Christian Examiner) — Several religious liberty bills impacting faith-based adoption agencies passed a Michigan Senate panel Wednesday and now head to the full Senate for a vote.

The measures passed 4 to 1 on party lines and would allow faith-based adoption agencies to operate according to their religious beliefs and protect them against lawsuits for referring gay couples to other agencies.

Supporters of the bill include the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Religious protections were denied in Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. causing Catholic Charities, which operate foster care and adoption services nationally, to shut down in those states, affecting up to one third of the children awaiting homes in each.

Opponents of the measures include homosexual rights activists who would force every child welfare agency to accept gay clients regardless of religious convictions and despite the availability of secular agencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection measured the population of homosexual males and females to be 1.6 percent of the population.

Catholic Charities has testified before that the issue has not been a problem for them, because the small number of gays who seek to adopt or serve as foster parents simply use other agencies.

The Senate Families Seniors and Human Services Committee that moved the bill forward reportedly heard hours of testimony from both sides before arriving at the decision to allow the measures to proceed.

One of the bill's sponsors Rep. Eric Leutheuser (R), emphasized the legislature would not stop gays from adopting or partiocipating in foster care, but would give religious agengies the freedom to refer prospective parents to a more compatible agency.

"Faith-based agencies need to be able to recuse themselves from adoptions that would go against their faith based beliefs," Leutheuser told The Detroit Free Press.

Still, some objectors say tax dollars should not support agencies that the bill would protect. According to the Detroit publication, about $10 million in state and federal funds went to the faith-based agencies.

Some faith-based agencies do not accept government funding.

Earlier this month Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder eagerly declared his intention to veto any Religious Freedom Restoration Act that came across his desk. Now as the state's conservatives await the outcome of these religious bills some likely wonder if Snyder will stake the same position on these measures.