Bethany Christian Services, a faith-based adoption agency in Michigan, has opted to allow LGBTQ couples to adopt children in order to comply with a new state rule banning discrimination against gay parents.
“Bethany will continue operations in Michigan, in compliance with our legal contract requirements,” an adoption agency spokesman said Wednesday. “The mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed.”
The agency is responsible for 8% of Michigan’s more than 13,000 adoptions and foster-child placements each year.
Last month, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that adoption and foster agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ parents would not receive state referrals.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel also announced in March that her office no longer would defend a 2015 law that allowed child-placement agencies to cite religious exemptions for not contracting with LGBTQ couples. She cited a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guideline that bans discrimination against same-sex couples.
A spokesman for Bethany Christian Services said the board’s decision to comply with the new rule was difficult.
“For 75 years, Bethany has focused on serving vulnerable children in Michigan and around the world,” the spokesman said. “We are disappointed with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government.”
The agency said it will continue to apply its Bible-based criteria for approving adoption and foster parents.
Last week, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, another faith-based adoption agency, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Michigan officials and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II, citing religious discrimination.
The lawsuit says that Michigan’s non-discrimination rules amount to a gag order on St. Vincent’s ministry. It forces social workers hired by the Catholic organization to approve and certify home relationships as healthy that the Roman Catholic Church disapproves of as sinful, states the suit, which was filed by the religious liberty law firm Becket.
In a related matter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit on Monday upheld Philadelphia’s decision to stop contracting with a Catholic foster agency that refuses to place children with same-sex couples.
“The city stands on firm grounds in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services,” said Judge Thomas L. Ambro, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel.
Becket, which also represented the plaintiffs in this lawsuit against Philadelphia, issued a statement from lead plaintiff and foster mother Sharonell Fulton after the ruling.
“As a single mom and woman of color, I’ve known a thing or two about discrimination over the years,” Ms. Fulton said. “But I have never known vindictive religious discrimination like this, and I feel the fresh sting of bias watching my faith publicly derided by Philadelphia politicians.”
In 2017, Bethany Christian Services and St. Vincent Catholic Charities were sued by a lesbian couple who said they were denied child-placement services because of their marital status. That lawsuit ended in March, when Ms. Nessel declined to continue defending the state law.
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