The ACLU characterized the settlement as a victory for the 12,000 children in Michigan foster care.
"Our children need every family that is willing and able to provide them with a loving home," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. She said agencies that choose to accept taxpayer dollars "must put the needs of the children first."
A 2015 law, passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, prevents state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. The law protects them from civil action and from threats to their public funding, while requiring agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.
When the law was passed, about 25 percent of Michigan's adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, criticized the settlement and said faith-based adoption agencies will have to close because of a lack of taxpayer-funded support.
"Dana Nessel has shown us that she cares little for the Constitution and even less for the vulnerable population of children in need of forever homes," Shirkey charged. "Nessel's actions make it clear that she sought the office of attorney general to further her own personal political agenda."
State Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake, wasn't in the legislature when its 2015 bill passed but said he would have backed it, the Detroit Free Press said.
For Lower, the law made sense because "the situation puts these agencies in a tough situation because they have been able to refer couples to another agency that is willing to work with same-sex couples."
"But now, they'll have to choose to either not to help the kids or violate their religious beliefs," he added.
In 2017, the Michigan Catholic Conference described the lawsuit as "mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant," and "yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life." The 2015 law was needed to "promote diversity in child placement" and to maintain a public-private partnership to stabilize adoption and foster care, the conference said.
A 2017 court filing from St. Vincent Catholic Charities said it recruited more new families than seven of eight adoption agencies in the capital region. It would be unable to continue its programs without the contract.
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In 2018 Becket said St. Vincent Catholic Charities found more new foster families than almost 90 percent of other agencies within its service district, with particular success in finding homes for hard-to-place children such as those with special needs, larger sibling groups, or older children.
A 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the proposed legal recognition of same-sex unions rejected the placement of children with same-sex couples. That document cited the need for a child to grow up with both a mother and a father and said placing a child with a same-sex couple would "place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development," something that is "gravely immoral" and in violation of the child's best interest.
Laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or barring state funding from adoption agencies considered discriminatory have shut down Catholic adoption agencies in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and Illinois, among others.
While religious freedom was long an assumption of American political and legal life, recent decades have produced an increased push against religious freedom protections. The proposed federal Equality Act explicitly bars appeals to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense in cases of alleged discrimination.
CNA investigations have found close to $10 million in grants earmarked to restricting religious freedom in cases impacting LGBT causes and "reproductive rights." The New York-based Arcus Foundation and the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund's Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative play leading roles, and both were leaders in pushing for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The national ACLU and some state affiliates are among this funding network's grantees.