Legislation Would Allow Adoption Agencies To Reject Based on Faith

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Could discrimination become part of the adoption process? A pair of bills being considered by the state legislature would allow adoption agencies to deny a family based on that agency's moral or religious beliefs.

Gays and lesbians feel the measure would make it much tougher to adopt.

"To think that an agency, if these bills were in place, could have discriminated against us even though the birth family selected us is frightening," Kent Love-Ramirez said.

Love-Ramirez adopted a son with his partner, Diego, nearly two years ago. "It's been wonderful being dads," Kent Love-Ramirez said, of caring for Lucas. "It's everything we could have ever possibly hoped for."

Many of Michigan's adoptions happen through private faith-based organizations, like Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services. They partner with the state and recieve some state funding to help Michigan children find homes. They believe the bills are about religious liberty and point out that under the legislation, a denial would not mean the proposed parent or parents are wrong for the child, but that they don't mesh with a given group's belief structure.

"The bills keep Michigan adoption laws the same as they are today, there's not change, they do not prohibit anyone from adopting," Bill Blacquiere, CEO of Bethany Christian Services said.

Blacquiere says the bills aren't about judgement or discrimination, but security, an assurance for religious-groups against future state mandates.

"We've seen it in Massachusett's, we've seen it in Illinious, we've seen it here in Michigan in Washtenaw County where a judge tried to order the church to preside over an unmarried couple's adoption, which is something the Catholic Church doesn't do," Tom Hixon, with Catholic Charities said.

Religious-groups supporting the measure believe faith-based agencies will be forced to stop helping with adoptions if protections aren't built into the law.

"I don't buy into the fact that this is about religious liberty, it's about giving someone a choice or an option to discriminate against another person, bases solely on their personal beliefs.

Gay couples already face hurdles to adopt in Michigan. The state does not permit gay marriage and unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt. For Love-Ramirez, that means while he and Diego share parenting duties and the financial responsiblities of raising Lucas equally, only one is his legal dad.

"The other in the eyes of the law is considered another adult in the household, essentially a stranger or roommate," Love-Ramirez explained.

The proposed bills are still early in the legislative process. A house committee will take them up again next week.

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