A lawsuit seeking to end state support for faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan will continue, a judge ruled on Friday.
Federal Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District Court of Michigan denied a motion to dismiss the case Dumont v. Lyon, which challenges state funding for religious agencies which will not work with same-sex couples.
The case was filed in September of 2017 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples who were turned away by a faith-based agency, as well as a former foster child. The ACLU argues that the state is violating the First Amendment’s establishment clause by providing funding to faith-based agencies who do place children with same-sex couples.
The motion to dismiss was filed in July by the state as well as St. Vincent Catholic Charities, located in Lansing, Michigan. St. Vincent is one of the organizations named in the suit.
Rejecting the motion to dismiss, Borman wrote that the two couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, experienced “stigmatic and practical harm” when they were turned away by faith-based agencies in Michigan.
Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund, which is providing counsel for the state in this case, said that “Friday’s court ruling allows the ACLU’s lawsuit to proceed---a lawsuit aimed at forbidding the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies to help children in need.”
Rienzi warned that if this were to happen, it would be “much harder for thousands of children to find the loving home they each deserve.”
Friday’s ruling was “just one step along the journey in this case,” said Rienzi.
While some adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan have a religious affiliation, there are many secular agencies operating in the state as well. According to the Becket Fund website, in this case four such agencies - all of which do work with same-sex couples - were located closer to the plaintiffs than the adoption agencies cited in the suit.
“Instead of going to these agencies, [the ACLU] have spent years targeting St. Vincent and trying to shut down their programs,” said a statement on the Becket Fund website. In the past, same-sex couples working through other agencies in Michigan have adopted children being cared for by St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
Dumont v. Lyon is one of several recent cases involving Catholic and other faith-based adoption agencies and their inability to work with same-sex couples.
Other states, such as Massachusetts and California, have seen Catholic Charities shut down their adoption divisions following state attempts to mandate that the agencies work with same-sex couples in violation of their religious beliefs.
Earlier this year, the city of Philadelphia announced that it would no longer work with Catholic Social Services for foster placements, citing the refusal of Catholic Social Services to facilitate foster placements with same-sex couples.
Following the Philadelphia decision, one foster mother filed suit against the city in response.
While many foster homes affiliated with Catholic Social Services are now empty, the city of Philadelphia is seeking to recruit additional foster parents to meet a growing number of children in need of care, a rise linked to the opioid addiction crisis. Catholic Social Services operated in Philadelphia for over a century with no complaints from a same-sex couple.