LANSING, Mich. — St. Vincent Catholic Charities has settled a lawsuit with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The settlement agreement will allows faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan to deny services to LGBTQ couples.
“The settlement agreement was filed with the court on Tuesday and then court approved it on Wednesday,” said Lori Windham a senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented St. Vincent.
The agreement followed decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the city of Philadelphia had improperly limited its relationship with a Catholic foster care agency because the agency refused to work with same sex couples.
The origins of the Michigan case run back to 2017, when a lesbian couple sued the state after they were denied adoption services by multiple faith-based agencies.
“In 2019, the state changed its policy,” Windham said. "Previously, the state said it would respect the religious freedom of different agencies, but in 2019, the state changed it’s policy and said it would no longer be permitted and you cannot provide a couple a referral elsewhere if you did not work with them directly, and if those faith based agencies didn’t agree with that, they couldn’t provide adoption or foster care services in Michigan.”
That same year, St. Vincent, which is based in Lansing Township, challenged that change in court.
“After the Supreme Court decision last June, in favor of a Catholic-based foster agency in Philadelphia, the state of Michigan agreed that St. Vincent was likely to win its case and agreed to settle in resolve the issue.”
In the settlement, the state agreed to pay St. Vincent $550,000 for attorney fees and court costs.
The agreement does require agencies that deny services to LGBTQ couples to give them referrals to other services that can help them.
“They cannot provide an endorsement of a same sex couple, but if any one approached them, they would provide them with information about where they can go to get that endorsement and home study and they could even adopt a child who is in St. Vincent care if they went and got their home study and endorsement somewhere else,” Windham said.