The state of Michigan has settled a second lawsuit over state attorney general Dana Nessel’s 2019 order requiring all foster care and adoption agencies that contract with the state to work with LGBT couples.
The state agreed to pay the Catholic Charities West Michigan $250,000 in attorney’s fees after acknowledging it would likely lose a 2019 lawsuit brought by the nonprofit. The suit accused the state of trying to force Catholic Charities to violate its religious beliefs by placing children in LGBT homes.
A federal judge approved the settlement on Monday, Christian Headlines reported. The court order also included an agreement by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) that it would not terminate a contract with the Catholic ministry over its religious beliefs.
MDHHS said in a court order that it was likely to lose the suit because of precedent set by a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision in another case. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment in ordering a Catholic foster care agency to place children in LGBT homes.
The state agreed to a separate settlement with the St. Vincent Catholic Charities in January, vowing not to take any action against the Catholic group and to pay $550,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
St. Vincent Catholic Charities argued it would be unable to continue its programs without the state contract, though it had recruited more families than seven of eight adoption agencies in the capital region.
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Catholic Charities West Michigan similarly would have been forced to “immediately suspend their foster care and public adoption ministry” if it lost its state contract, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented the ministry.
The Catholic Charities West Michigan suit argued Nessel’s 2019 order violated state law, the Michigan Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Nessel, a Democrat, is raising two children with a same-sex spouse.
Catholic Charities West Michigan, which has placed 4,500 children in homes over the past year, believes that marriage is the “sacramental union of one man and one woman,” according to the lawsuit. It prefers to place children with adoptive or foster families of a married mother and father.
Catholic Charities West Michigan asked the court to protect it from being “singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—beliefs that motivate its care for children, birth parents, and other vulnerable members of the community,” Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the nonprofit, said.
“More adoption and foster care providers mean more children have the chance to be adopted or cared for by a foster family,”ADF senior counsel Jeremiah Galus said. “Catholic Charities West Michigan meets a critical need as one of the region’s largest social service providers, reuniting children with their birth parents and placing foster kids in loving homes.”
“We are pleased Catholic Charities can continue its vital mission serving vulnerable families in Michigan without being punished by the government simply because it’s operating according to its religious beliefs—the very reason the ministry exists in the first place,” Galus added.
When MDHHS announced the settlement with Catholic Charities West Michigan earlier this month, it also announced plans to form a task force to support LGBT families who want to foster or adopt children.
“MDHHS recognizes, values, affirms, and appreciates the significant contributions made by the LGBTQ+ families caring for children in foster care and those choosing to adopt,” said Demetrius Starling, executive director of the department’s Children’s Services Agency. “We cannot do this work without them. For this reason, the department has begun creating the MiFamily Advancement and Leadership for LGBTQ+ Youth (ALLY) and families task force comprised of LGBTQ+ persons, allies and child welfare experts to determine how best to support LGBTQ+ families interested in becoming foster and adoptive parents.”
“Although the outcome in these court cases is not what we hoped for, we are committed to providing support to the many members in the LGBTQ+ community who foster and adopt,” Starling added.
This content was originally published here.