No one has sued South Dakota yet for its discriminatory 2017 Senate Bill 149, now SDCL 26-6-36 through 26-6-50, which allows private adoption agencies to invoke their religious beliefs to discriminate against prospective parents for being transgender, homosexual, divorced, never married, or lazy on Sunday mornings. But the Michigan statute on which South Dakota’s discriminatory law is based is going to court, thanks to the ACLU and Kristy and Dana Dumont:
Kristy and Dana Dumont, plaintiffs in the case, were turned away from two local adoption agencies in Ingham County in July 2016 and March 2017. “We wanted to adopt out of foster care in our local community so it would be the least disruptive for the kid,” Kristy said on a conference call announcing the lawsuit today. “We wouldn’t want to take them away from family…and we would want them to stay connected with friends.” In calls with the agencies, Kristy explained, “They both said no, and that this is not their practice to place children with same-sex families” [Ashley Dejean, “Michigan Just Got Hit With a Lawsuit for Letting Adoption Agencies Discriminate Against Gay People,” Mother Jones, 2017.09.20].
Three other plaintiffs are listed on the complaint filed last Wednesday in federal court in Michigan. Both of the lesbian couples listed as plaintiffs were turned down for services by Bethany Christian Services, which sent Troy Cumings from its national office in Michigan to help lobby for SB 149 in South Dakota.
The Michigan statute includes “findings”—i.e., superfluous rhetoric writing political arguments into state law—that declare that, even though the state’s paramount goal is to place every child who needs one in a “safe, loving, and supportive home,” there are 105 licensed adoption and foster care agencies in the state, so it’s o.k. to let some of them engage in religious discrimination. South Dakota has five organizations with thirteen licensed agencies, and almost every one of them is religious. South Dakota’s law leaves prospective parents who don’t meet certain religious tests with minimal adoption options.
However many agencies are available, the plaintiffs contend that turning away willing parents, gay or straight, runs counter to the state’s declared interest in giving children good homes:
53. Each time a prospective parent who is able to provide a loving and caring family for a child is turned away by a child placing agency because of a religious objection to their sexual orientation (or any other religious objection), the pool of families available for the children in the child welfare system diminishes, reducing children’s options for an appropriate placement, or any placement at all.
54. Every major professional organization dedicated to children’s welfare, including the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Adoption Center, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association, affirmatively states that gay and lesbian parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children and opposes any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption and foster care [Complaint, Dumont, Dumont, Busk-Sutton, Busk-Sutton, & Ludolph v. Lyon and McCall, Case No. 17-cv-13080, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, 2017.09.20].
Watch this Michigan case for hope that we can reverse South Dakota’s grim turn toward state-sanctioned religious discrimination.