A bill before the Michigan legislature would allow adoption agencies to turn away would-be parents based on religious or moral beliefs. A similar bill to allow physicians and hospitals to refuse medical treatment based on religious beliefs or moral objections is being considered, as well.
As USA Today explained, "The bill has been touted as supporting 'religious freedom' of adoption agencies to refuse to assist, counsel, recommend or facilitate an adoption 'that violates its written religious or moral convictions or policies,' according to an analysis of the bill."
Critics, it said, consider the bill "state-sanctioned discrimination."
Michigan law already allows doctors and hospitals not to perform abortions if doing so would raise a religious or moral objection.
The American Bar Association told Detroit Free Press reporter Kathleen Gray that two states, Virginia and North Dakota, have enacted laws similar to the Michigan proposal.
MLive's Brian Smith said the bills on Wednesday morning received what would likely be several discussions as sponsors appeared before the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.
"Committee chairman Rep. Kenneth Kurtz (R-Coldwater), who is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4927, testified along with HB 4928 sponsor Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R-Columbus Township) in support of the bills," Smith wrote. "LaFontaine said the bills write into statute policies the state's Department of Human Services already have in place which allow faith-based adoption agencies receiving state funds to decline to place a child if the placement would violate the agency's religious beliefs."
ACLU legislative liaison Shelli Weisberg told USA Today that the bill was so broad that discrimination could occur for almost any reason. "We see some version of this bill every year. It tries to write into Michigan law the right to discriminate based on religion or many other things. We don't argue that faith-based agencies have their own rules, but they shouldn't be able to discriminate if they receive state money."
The state would be barred under the adoption proposal from pulling taxpayer funds from agencies because they didn't choose to allow certain adoptions, based on their moral or religious beliefs.
Legislators told Smith that amendments to the bills are being discussed. One would create a procedure so that agencies who objected to a particular adoption would be able to suggest another agency to the adoptive parents.
In October, a district court is set to hear a challenge to Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and adoptions, enacted in 2004.
"Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer and three adopted children live under one roof in Hazel Park. But Michigan law bars the women from jointly adopting each other’s kids," according to an Associated Press article.
Bills that would allow same-sex marriage have been introduced in both Michigan's House and Senate.
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