Recent legal news out of Michigan shows a win for prospective adoptive parents – adoption agencies that receive state and taxpayer funding are no longer legally allowed to turn away same-sex couples or LGBTQ parents based on religious objections. Although this type of discrimination is illegal here in Maryland, it continues to be an issue in other states.
Two same-sex couples filed a complaint in September 2017, challenging the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MHHS) contracts with adoption agencies that refuse to work with them for religious reasons.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on March 22, 2019. Nessel noted that a 2015 law that permitted state-funded agencies to refuse services based on their religious beliefs violated federal anti-discrimination laws.
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” she said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child placing agency enters into with the state.”
Under the settlement, the MHHS is obligated to follow all nondiscriminatory practices, and terminate the contracts of any adoption or foster agencies that don’t comply. This ruling doesn’t apply to private or direct placement adoptions, however – only those referred by the state.
Same-sex adoption in Maryland
Currently, there are still nine states with laws in place permitting state-funded agencies to refuse to place children with families if it conflicts with their faith or religious beliefs. This includes LGBTQ families and parents.
Here in Maryland, however, it’s illegal to discriminate against potential adoptive parents based on their:
- Marital status (whether they’re married, single, or divorced)
- Sexual orientation
- Race or ethnicity
Of course, even with anti-discrimination laws in place, adoption is still an extremely complex process. It’s imperative you have skilled legal guidance when you embark on such an exciting journey. Generally, the adoption process includes petitioning the court, background checks, separate legal counsel for the child, multiple court appearances, and a formal hearing. And that’s all after you’re matched with a child.
However, it’s certainly worth noting that the residential moving site Move.org lists Maryland in their top five best states to move to start an LGBTQ family!
At McCabe Russell, PA, our Columbia attorneys are experienced in all matters of family law. If you have questions or concerns about adoption or foster care, get in touch with our legal team today for help. To speak with an experienced lawyer serving Howard County clients, please call 443-917-3347 or fill out our contact form. We also maintain offices in Bethesda, Rockville and Fulton.