Federal Court Allows ACLU Challenge to Discriminatory Adoption Placement Practices to Go Forward

September 14, 2018

A federal judge ruled today that the ACLU’s challenge to Michigan’s practice of allowing discrimination against same-sex couples in the public foster care system can move forward.

The ACLU argued that it is unconstitutional to allow state-contracted, taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to use religious objections to exclude same-sex couples as prospective adoptive families. The plaintiffs, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, who seek to provide forever families to children in the foster care system, were turned away by two state-contracted agencies because they are same-sex couples.

In today’s decision, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman recognized that the First Amendment not only permits governments to require their contracted agencies to comply with non-discrimination requirements; the decision also prohibits governments from allowing the use of religious criteria to exclude same-sex couples.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, issued the following statement in response:

“In America right now, there are over 118,000 children in the foster care system awaiting adoption. Allowing good families to be turned away because they don’t meet a religious litmus test denies children families they desperately need. The use of religious standards for participation in a government program also violates the Constitution. Couples like Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, who want to open their hearts and homes to a child in need, should be judged on one thing: their capacity to provide love and support to a child, not whether they pass a religious test.”

Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Legal Project, issued the following statement in response:

“Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton simply want to be parents. Denying them this right based on the government agencies religious objections is illegal, and turning them away is denying same sex couples the dignity and equal treatment to which they are entitled.”