Christian group changes tune, will allow same-sex couples to adopt

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    When the law firm representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities announced last week that it would sue Michigan to prevent the state from forcing religious charities to allow same-sex adoptions, St. Vincent’s former partner in protest, Bethany Christian Services, was conspicuously absent.

    The reason for that absence came to light just a few days later, as Bethany announced it would be reversing its policy banning same-sex adoptions.

    Dana Nessel, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

    The agency issued a statement on Thursday saying that although it was “disappointed,” “Bethany will continue operations in Michigan, in compliance with our legal contract requirements. The mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed.”

    WGVU-Grand Rapids reported that Bethany employees “told the organization they would walk out of their jobs unless the policy changed.”

    Nick Reaves is the counsel with “religious liberty” firm Becket Law, which is representing St. Vincent along with foster parents Melissa and Chad Buck of Holt and foster child Shamber Flore. He told reporters when the lawsuit was announced that he couldn’t speak for Bethany or say why it wasn’t joining, only that “they were instrumental in and strongly supported” the group’s previous complaint.

    Becket Law is a conservative Washington, D.C., firm known for its successful Burwell v. Hobby Lobby suit in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the religious owners of the company don’t have to provide contraception coverage mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

    Attorney General Dana Nessel lauded Bethany’s decision in a tweet, although her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    By the terms of Nessel’s settlement last month with Kristy and Dana Dumont, a same-sex couple who had previously sued the state after being denied adoption on that basis, any agency that contracted with the state to place adoptions would be forced to allow them to same-sex couples.

    Becket Law, along with the previously mentioned complainants, including Bethany Christian Services, intervened in that lawsuit to argue for those charities’ right to discriminate. The new lawsuit, filed on both First and 14th Amendment grounds, came less than a month after that settlement.

    Melissa and Chad Buck | Becket Law

    According to the Detroit News, as of mid-February, Bethany Christian Services was responsible for roughly 9 percent of the state’s adoption cases.

    Last week, Reaves told reporters that “the state’s decision to exclude certain agencies like St. Vincent because of their religious beliefs causes unnecessary harm to kids they could be serving now … just because the attorney general doesn’t like what St. Vincent believes.”

    Democrats in the state House and Senate last week introduced legislation that would expand adoption rights to LGBT couples.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance and is now a freelance writer in Chicago. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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