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

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Snyder said he received letters from Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services, which on average do 25 to 30 percent of the Michigan’s foster care adoptions and had expressed concern that if the state’s policy changed in the future, they would be forced to close their doors. In 2011, Illinois ended long-standing contracts with Catholic Charities to provide foster care and adoptions because of the group’s practice of referring unmarried couples to other agencies.

“This is about making sure we get the largest number of kids in forever families,” Snyder said. “The more opportunities and organizations we have that are doing a good job of placing people in loving families, isn’t that better for all of us?”

Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, a Columbus Township Republican and sponsor of the main bill, said when agencies are forced to close rather than violate their religious beliefs, “it results in a lack of services, longer wait times and fewer child placements.”

Under Michigan’s law, an agency with religious objections to a prospective adoption will have to refer an applicant to another “willing and able” agency or to a state website listing other providers.

The measure specifies that child-placing agencies do not have to provide services in conflict with their “sincerely held” religious beliefs, meaning they can decline a referral for foster care management or adoption services without fear of an “adverse action” by the state or local governments.

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Private agencies – which received $19.9 million from the state for adoption services in the last fiscal year – will be able to cite the law as a defense in judicial or administrative proceedings. If they decline to provide services, they must give applicants a written list of other adoption or foster care providers.

Michigan has 105 licensed adoption and foster care agencies, approximately 25 percent of which are faith-based, according to lawmakers.

One of the gay marriage lawsuits before the Supreme Court began as a Michigan adoption case, because the state does not allow unmarried couples to jointly adopt.

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