Michigan governor signs bill allowing adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.)

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.)

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.)

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.)

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed a law letting private adoption agencies with state contracts decline to participate in referrals against their religious beliefs, despite criticism that it amounts to government-sanctioned discrimination against gay couples.

Snyder, a Republican, told The Associated Press that the legislation codifies an existing practice within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which relies on private agencies to help find temporary or permanent homes for 13,000 children in foster care at any given time.

“Our goal is to get the maximum number of kids adopted by loving families regardless of the loving family’s background, whether they’re straight or gay,” Snyder said in a phone interview.

Only two other states, Virginia and North Dakota, have laws that are explicit in allowing private adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents for religious reasons.

Snyder acted a day after the bills cleared the GOP-controlled Legislature almost entirely along party lines. Opponents compared the legislation – which is expected to be challenged in court before it takes effect in 90 days – to a religious objections law in Indiana that had to be softened after a backlash.

The ACLU of Michigan said agencies covered by the law are “receiving state money to perform a public function” and are legally obligated to act in children’s best interests.

“There is nothing about this shameful legislation that helps vulnerable kids find homes,” said deputy director Rana Elmir, who warned that same-sex couples, religious minorities, single parents and others will be affected. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay rights group, said Snyder has “utter disdain” for the welfare of children and the new law will set the state back.

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Snyder denied that the law discriminates against gays or others, saying “this isn’t about that” and reiterating his past threat to veto a broader religious freedom bill unless the state’s civil rights law is expanded to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Michigan Catholic Conference and others have lobbied for the adoption legislation for years, but it gained traction ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court‘s expected ruling on gay marriage in coming weeks.

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