Judge hears arguments on adoption agency funding


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Injunction or no injunction: that’s what a federal judge will decide when it comes to the issue of the state attorney general’s fight with a Catholic adoption agency.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments on whether St. Vincent Catholic Charities can continue to get state funds before its lawsuit over state funding and same-sex couples is resolved.

In 2015, former Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to turn away families for religious reasons and still get state dollars. A same-sex couple took the state to court and Attorney General Dana Nessel settled the case in March. The outcome required the state to give contracts to agencies that do not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Now, St. Vincent Catholic Charities and private individuals are suing Nessel as well as other state agencies and directors. The agency wants to keep its state funding and a maintain the right to refuse to adopt children to same-sex couples. The case will take some time to play out in court. In the meantime, the state contract with St. Vincent Catholic Charities expires next month.

St. Vincent says without the state funding, it will have to close its doors.

The state argues that not adopting to same-sex couples is a violation of the contract that it signed, so it simply can’t give the agency the money if it refuses same-sex couples.

“We were able to make it clear that an agency does not have a fundamental right to a government taxpayer contract that allows you to avoid nondiscrimination,” Jay Kaplin with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said of the arguments made in federal court.

A lawyer for St. Vincent argued in court that removing the funds would be a violation of the First and 14th Amendments.

“Now the state of Michigan is trying to shut down St. Vincent all because the state disagrees with St. Vincent’s religious beliefs,” a mom who adopted through the agency said.

No decision was made on the injunction Thursday; the judge should issue a written opinion before the contract expires Sept. 30.

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