Federal court allows same-sex couples to challenge Michigan’s anti-gay adoption law

Two same-sex couples are challenging the state’s “license to discriminate.”

A federal judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” for religiously affiliated adoption agencies can proceed.

Two same-sex couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, are directly suing the state for contracting with religious child-placement agencies it knows will refuse service to same-sex couples. In 2015, the legislature approved a law that ensured that agencies receiving taxpayer funding could refuse to serve same-sex couples without endangering their contracts with the state. Both couples have since been denied service from such agencies.

The state, along with St. Vincent Catholic Charities (which has joined the case as an intervenor defendant), argued that the case should be dismissed. But in his opinion Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, a Clinton appointment, agreed that the couples have made a credible case that the government is improperly entangled in endorsing the anti-gay religious views of these agencies.

“The Plaintiffs allege that the State Defendants could not turn away a same-sex couple on the basis of religious objections, yet they acknowledge that they are permitting their delegated agencies, carrying out a State function, to do exactly what the Constitution forbids them to do,” he wrote.

ThinkProgress.com by Zack Ford, September 17, 2018

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Guardianship for Children – Priceless Peace of Mind

Creating a guardianship for Children may be the most important reason for creating an estate plan.  With a thoughtfully chosen guardian, parents can rest assured that their children will be ok if something were to happen.

A guardianship for children in a Last Will and Testament is the only way to ensure that your children will be with whom you choose in the event of a death of a parent.  To dispel a common misconception, naming someone as a godparent through a church ritual has no legal weight when a guardian is required after the death of a parent or parents.  I would argue that the exercise of choosing that person is good for the parents as it has them thinking about why someone may be a good choice as a guardian for their children, but that exercise is just that until the choice is declared in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.guardianship for children

To be crystal clear, only a child guardian designation made in a properly executed Last Will and Testament is a valid designation of a guardianship for children

Becoming a parent forces that person to think in the long-term.  Imagining your children’s lives without you is certainly not easy but imagining their lives without you and without any clear direction as to where they should live or who they should live with is far worse.

Hypothetically, if no guardianship for children is established in a properly executed Last Will and Testament, the court will look to see if there are any family members who would petition the court to take on that responsibility.  That person, while being a close family member, may not be the person that a parent would choose for their child.  Also, the court prioritizes the closest living blood relatives, so if you have not made your wishes known through a properly executed guardianship for children in a Will, then a more distant family member who may be the better choice would have an uphill battle in court.

Another fact that most parents do not realize is that when there is a guardianship for children properly established in your Last Will and Testament, the designated guardian still must petition the court to be made the legal guardian of the child.  This process is streamlined when the deceased parent has made a clear guardianship for children designation, but that designee must still follow the protocols of having the guardianship established in court.

singleIf no guardianship for children has been properly executed, then the closest living blood relatives must petition the court to be named legal guardian, creating an often time consuming and emotional journey for all involved, especially the children.

While this article focuses on how to properly execute a guardianship for children, I also want to remind readers of the different ways that parents can provide financially for their children if a parent, or parents, die.  Basic estate planning is essentialEstate planning with children in the mix offers new options, and challenges.

Remember also that you can name a guardianship for children even before they are born.  Carefully crafted Wills may refer to “future born children,” as well as defining children to include adopted children, children in utero, children you are in the process of adopting and children who are created through assisted reproductive technology. 

Now that you understand the process, the real work begins.  Being able to have these conversations among parents is crucial. Agreeing upon an appropriate guardianship for children may take time and effort, but it may be the most important decision you will ever make for your family.

 

Anthony M. Brown, Esq. September 7, 2018

 

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Catholic Charities ending foster, adoption programs over same-sex marriage rule

Catholic Charities of Buffalo will end its foster care and adoption program because state rules that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation conflict with church teachings, officials from the organization said Thursday.

“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the church,” Dennis C. Walczyk, the chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, told The News.

A same-sex couple recently applied to the agency to become adoptive foster parents, and that precipitated the agency’s decision, Walczyk said.

The agency has a contract with the Erie County Department of Social Services that expires in March. The state Office of Children and Family Services licenses Catholic Charities and other providers of these services.

The state requires contracting organizations to allow same-sex couples to adopt or to raise foster children. That directive, however, goes against the church’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman, the Catholic Charities officials said.

Given that tension, the agency made the decision to phase out the foster care and adoption program.

“It is with deep sadness we acknowledge that the legacy of the high quality, exceptional services which our staff provides to children and families through foster care and adoption will be lost,”  Walczyk said in a statement formally announcing the end of the services. “We are working with the state OCFS and Erie County DSS to support a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents, as well as those who have submitted applications to provide foster care or seek adoption.”

Catholic Charities said the program currently has 55 certified foster homes, with 34 children in care in 24 of those homes.

“They will stay with their parents,” Walczyk said of the children currently placed through Catholic Charities. “They will stay in their homes.”

But eventually they will be under the auspices of another agency.

August 23, 2018, By  By

BuffaloNews.com

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As evidence supporting LGBTQ families mounts, legal hurdles loom

New studies say kids of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those with a mom and dad. But Congress is moving to allow adoption agencies to bar LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ families made headlines twice this month, but for very different reasons.

Last week, a study found that from a mental health perspective, adult children with lesbian parents fared just as well as their peers with opposite-sex parents. This follows an Italian study released in May that found that children with same-sex parents were actually slightly better off psychologically than children with a mom and a dad.LGBTQ families

Earlier this month, however, Republican lawmakers dealt a blow to LGBTQ people seeking to become LGBTQ families. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment allowing foster care and adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. Though the amendment has several steps to go before becoming federal law, 10 states already have a similar law in place.

The House amendment goes even further than current state-level laws. It would cut 15 percent of child welfare funding to states that explicitly prohibit agencies from excluding LGBTQ people.

Independent and private adoption agencies that do not receive federal funding are already allowed to deny LGBTQ people.

The studies of children with same-sex parents don’t surprise advocates of LGBTQ families. Zach Wahls, who was born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination and famously defended same-sex parents to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, said it was exciting to have studies to back up his experience.

“In our current climate, we’re at risk of backsliding on this issue,” Wahls told NBC News. “We need to be ready to contest that, and now we can do it in a scientific way.”

Scientific as they may be, the studies are unlikely to move those who advocate for allowing agencies to exclude LGBTQ families, because the objections are faith-based and do not pertain only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

by Avichai Scher NBCNews.com, 

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Religious adoption agency can’t exclude gay parents, judge rules

In a ruling hailed as “historic,” a federal judge sided with the city of Philadelphia and same-sex foster and adoptive parents.

A federal judge on Friday ruled against a religious organization that refused to place foster children with gay families on religious grounds.Family law

Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the city of Philadelphia can require the foster and adoption agencies with which it contracts to abide by the city’s nondiscrimination policies. The decision marks the first time a federal court has ruled that such agencies may not turn away same-sex couples who don’t meet the agencies’ religious criteria.

The plaintiffs in the case — Catholic Social Services and three foster families with whom the agency works — were quick to file an appeal.

The dispute began in early March when the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) discovered that two of the 30 foster care agencies with which it has contracts — Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services — had policies that deny their publicly funded services to same-sex couples.

Following this discovery, DHS stopped working with the two organizations, noting that their policies regarding LGBTQ families violated the nondiscrimination clause included in the contract they entered into with DHS.

NBCNews.com, July 19, 2018 by Julie Moreau

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Did Republicans Vote to Make It Legal to Ban Gays and Lesbians from Adopting?

In a party line vote, the Republicans in the majority in the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a funding bill that would allow federally-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ families.

The news came at a moment when LGBTQ activists were still reeling from a 2 July Supreme Court decision siding with republicans and a Colorado baker sued for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing, on religious grounds, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In their narrow ruling, the justices upheld the law itself but found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not act with sufficient neutrality with respect to the baker’s religious beliefs.

The vote on gay adoption (which also turned on the issue of religious objections to same-sex relationships) did, in fact, take place during consideration of a funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education by the House Appropriations Committee on 11 July 2018.

Among the amendments proposed to the bill was one offered by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) forbidding the federal government, and state and local governments that receive federal funding for child welfare services programs, to act against individual providers who decline to supply services to anyone — including promoting adoption, recruiting adoptive parents, assisting adoptions, and supporting adoptive families — for religious or moral reasons. 

The committee approved Aderholt’s amendment by a vote of 29 for and 23 against, with all 22 Democrats and only one Republican (Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia) opposed. The full bill still has to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the president before it can become law.

July 14, 2018, Snopes.com

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Adoption agencies could refuse same-sex couples under measure OK’d by House panel

The House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment on Wednesday that, if implemented, would allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on their moral or religious beliefs.

The amendment, which was introduced by GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, would allow child welfare providers to decline to “provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” according to the congressman.Bribes congress
 
Because of this provision, the amendment would allow more religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services — examples Aderholt provided — to operate child welfare agencies.
 
“The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples,” he said in a statement.
 
He continued: “The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these (state) governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” he said in a statement.
 
The amendment could have consequences for LGBTQ-friendly states. It would require the US Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15% of the federal funds for child welfare services from states and localities don’t meet the same standards for protecting religious adoption groups.
 
Progressive Democrats in the House are speaking out against the amendment, saying it would deny same-sex couples the right to adopt.
“Same-sex couples are six times more likely to foster and four times more likely to adopt. Denying kids loving parents is wrong,” Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a gay congressman from Wisconsin, said in a tweet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the amendment a “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort.”
 
“House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home,” the California Democrat said in a statement.
 
The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By Daniella Diaz, CNN.com, July 12, 2018 

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LGBT Couples Could be Denied Adoption on Religious Grounds in Kansas and Oklahoma

Lawmakers in Republican-controlled legislatures in Oklahoma and Kansas approved bills granting legal protection to faith-based agencies that refuse adoptions to LGBT families on religious grounds.adoption ban

Supporters of the legislation believe that the new regulations will help address the need for foster families by attracting more adoption agencies to their state and protect religious liberties. Critics such as the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) believe the laws give “license to discriminate.”  

In Oklahoma, bill SB 1140 was approved by the House of Representatives in a 56-21 vote on Thursday without discussion or debate, Reuters reported. The abrupt move was vocally opposed by Democrat lawmakers.

“The abomination of process & justice in the OK House of Reps makes me weep for democracy,” Representative Cory Williams, a vocal critic of the bill which he described as “homophobic and bigot,” wrote on Twitter about the vote.

Newsweek.com by Sofia Lotto Persio, May 4, 2018

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Colorado Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Bill Fails in Senate

This morning, the Colorado Senate considered a bill that would not only endanger children, but would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away any potential parent or family from providing a loving home to a child, simply because that parent or family doesn’t meet their religious requirements.

When debated before the full Senate, Senate Bill 241 failed on 2nd reading by a voice vote. Senator Kevin Lundberg, sponsor of the bill and perennial proponent of anti-LGBTQ measures, pushed an amendment to revive the bill. But all members of the Colorado Senate Democratic Caucus, and Senators Cheri Jahn, Don Coram, and Beth Martinez Humenik voted no, ensuring the bill’s defeat by a vote of 19-16.colorado anti-gay

Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families, released the following statement on the bill’s defeat:

“I commend the State Senators who came together to vote down this harmful and mean-spirited legislation. After seeing a very similar bill just pass in Oklahoma, I am pleased to see that a bipartisan group of Senators united to defeat this bill, sending a clear signal that hateful legislation like this has no place in Colorado.”

May 1, 2018 – one-colorado.org

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Oklahoma Adoption Bill Allowing Discrimination Against Gay Couples Clears House Panel

An Oklahoma House committee has approved a bill that seeks to allow religious child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Senate Bill 1140 cleared the Senate last month with an overwhelming 35-9 vote in Oklahoma adoption matter.

The bill states: “To the extent allowed by federal law, no private child placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”adoption

Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, a Republican from Oklahoma City, has defended his bill, arguing that it would increase the number of adoptions in Oklahoma by expanding the pool of faith-based organizations participating.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to the full House for consideration, adding an amendment that excludes agencies that receive state funding.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT rights advocate, said that the bill does not take into account the best interest of children.

“SB 1140, if passed, would allow state-licensed child-placing agencies to disregard the best interest of children and turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at HRC, said during a press conference. “This would include LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”

by Carlos Santoscoy, ontopmag.com, April 12, 2018

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