LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — The Michigan legislature has passed a set of bills that would allow religious groups running adoption services to refuse to serve those who did not adhere to their beliefs.
The Republican-backed legislation was approved 26-12 in the Senate almost entirely along party lines Wednesday. It returned to the House because minor changes were made and was also approved there.
Supporters say the legislation codifies a state agency’s existing practice for private agencies with child-placing contracts.
“The goal is to get children in homes and we want them to be in safe, stable, loving homes, yet you have to honor the principles of these organizations. It’s how our country was founded,” state Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, told 24 Hour News 8.
Opponents see the bill as Republicans following what they call a “right-wing agenda.” Still other opponents say it is directed at gay and lesbian couples and would essentially make discrimination legal.
“I think it’s another bill in a long line of bills that says Michigan is not a state that wants people to come here, doesn’t want young people. It’s not an open inviting state,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, told 24 Hour News 8.
Republicans say the bill will keep some religious groups from getting out of the adoption business.
“They’ve seen what has occurred elsewhere and they are concerned,” Emmons said. “We would have lost several organizations and they just would not have provided the service any longer.”
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed concerns the legislation could lead to lawsuits, but has not said whether he would veto it.
In an effort to ensure his signature, senators changed the the legislation to require agencies to refer applicants rejected for religious reasons to another agency. That change needed approval from the House, which it got Wednesday evening before being sent to the governor’s desk.
Democrats remain unimpressed.
“I’m disappointed,” Ananich said.
Some observers in the Senate believe the governor could sign the bill this week.
David Eggert of the Associated Press contributed to this report.