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Michigan AG Files Motion to Stay Decision on Same-Sex Adoptions

November 8th, 2019

A federal judge previously issued a preliminary injunction that allowed religiously affiliated adoption agencies to refuse same-sex adoptions.
A federal judge previously issued a preliminary injunction that allowed religiously affiliated adoption agencies to refuse same-sex adoptions.

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel recently filed an emergency motion in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan to stay the preliminary injunction permitting adoption agencies to refuse adoptions to same-sex couples while the state pursues an appeal. This action comes after a federal judge previously halted Michigan’s same-sex adoptions rules from going into effect–rules that disallowed state-contracted religiously affiliated adoption agencies to refuse same-sex adoptions.

Previous Agreement With the American Civil Liberties Union

This action comes after the state of Michigan engaged in a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this year. This agreement reiterated that in order to receive state money, private adoption agencies had to agree to same-sex adoptions as well as to adoptions to unmarried couples. Private adoption services that refused to do so could continue but could not contract with the state. In response, religious adoption agencies initiated legal action on the basis that these terms would force religious agencies to abandon religious beliefs or forgo state contracts.

The Terms of a Preliminary Injunction

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union argues that the court should stop the preliminary injunction from taking effect while the state appeals. While issuing its preliminary injunction, the court noted that the state’s attorney general showed animosity toward religious beliefs when she said she “could not justify using the state’s money” to defend “a law whose only purpose is discriminatory animus.”

The Details of the AG’s Request

In requesting a stay for the preliminary function, the attorney general argued that the court should not have viewed any statements she made about the law into the department’s policy. The comments were from 2015 and about potential legislation rather than expressing religious hostility. For example, the attorney general is quoted as saying that “These types of laws are a victory for the hate monger but again a disaster for the children and the state.” 

Additionally, the attorney general noted that public support for a stay of the preliminary injunction is strong. To support this argument, the state argues that the public interest is served by allowing state agencies to enforce voluntarily entered contractual obligations.

If the court does not stay the preliminary injunction, the attorney general is requesting the court to amend the preliminary injunction and require the Saint Vincent adoption agency to place state-supervised children in the care of the state of Michigan, who will then place the children with couples certified by the department through another child placement agency without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or otherwise.

Tracking Developments in LGBTQ Rights

Since the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, there have been several cases that have advanced as well as set back LGBTQ rights in the United States. Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on tracking the most noteworthy of these developments. Our blog strives to describe these developments in a way that analyzes both sides of the argument.

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