A Catholic adoption agency will not have to abandon its beliefs on marriage and the family in order to continue working with the state of Michigan for the time being, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
"This case is not about whether same-sex couples can be great parents," District Judge Robert Jonker wrote in his ruling granting an injunction against new state rules. "What this case is about is whether St. Vincent [Catholic Charities] may continue to do this work and still profess and promote the traditional Catholic belief that marriage as ordained by God is for one man and one woman."
The ruling bars Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel from acting on the terms of a legal settlement with the ACLU reached back in March that would have forced faith-based organizations that work with the state to place children in same-sex households, regardless of any deeply held religious beliefs. Michigan, like many other states, contracts with private adoption agencies to place foster children in new homes, and the ACLU sued in 2017 saying that prospective LGBT parents had been turned away by christian organizations.
In April, religious liberty legal nonprofit Becket responded to the settlement with a lawsuit on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, adoptive parents Chad and Melissa Buck, and a former foster child.
Jonker, a George W. Bush appointee, also wrote, "Under the Attorney General's current interpretation of Michigan law and the parties' contracts, St. Vincent must choose between its traditional religious belief, and the privilege of continuing to place children with foster and adoptive parents of all types." The ruling also stated that the state's position "strongly suggests the State's real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent's religious belief and replace it with the State's own."
A staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project said that the ruing "requires the state to put the individual religious beliefs of foster care agencies ahead of the welfare of children."
Becket said Thursdays ruling was a win for foster families. "Our nation is facing a foster care crisis, and we are so glad that Michigan's foster children will continue having all hands on deck to help them find loving forever homes," Becket senior counsel Lori Windham said after the ruling. "The Bucks and St. Vincent Catholic Charities won a victory in Michigan, but there is still work to be done to ensure that faith-based agencies can contribute to ending our nation's foster care crisis."
"Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel and the ACLU thought they could hatch a backdoor agreement to force ideological conformity in the state's foster care and adoption program and nothing could stop them," the Catholic Association legal advisor Andrea Picciotti-Bayer said of the decision. However, "Both state and federal law protect faith-based agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities to find loving homes for needy kids without having to abandon their religious teachings on the family."