It’s impossible to travel through Michigan without the constant reminder of how beautiful the landscape is. The wineries and hills roll into the sand dunes, that in turn roll into the lakes. There is a peacefulness to the lakes that remind you that regardless of how fast paced and stressful humanity can be, nature goes on regardless. It is a shame that the political landscape of Michigan does not reflect the unmatched beauty of its natural landscape.
Yesterday Gov. Rick Snyder quickly signed laws that allow religious adoption agencies – that receive public funds – to discriminate against same-sex couples, when looking for suitable parents. Snyder signed it after both the Michigan Senate and House passed the Bill, with all Republicans – with the exception of Sen.Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights – voting for it, whilst all Democrats voted against. Amendments that required faith-based agencies to comply with civil rights laws were voted down by Republicans. The wording of the law – carefully crafted to appear to be based on concepts of liberty, rather than the opposite – is here:
“If House bills 4188-4190 are not signed into law, and if statewide policy changes in a way that would force Catholic agencies to choose between violating strongly held religious beliefs or ceasing cooperation with the state, the agencies will cease to cooperate.”
– Paul Long, President of the Michigan Catholic Conference
– Let’s be clear on how serious this threat is from the adoption agencies and the Michigan Catholic Conference. According to the state Department of Human Services, around $10mn in state and federal funding went to faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan. Further, around 40-45% of adoption services in the state are performed by faith-based agencies. So here we see the significance of the threat; Christian groups with power over the lives of children, using that power to threaten the welfare of those children, if they’re not exempt from essentially, the US Constitution. The threat is clear; either you provide us with institutional privileges, or we put children at risk. Hideous, and abusive.
Paul Long of the Michigan Catholic Conference is fully aware that children in Michigan rely heavily on faith-based agencies to protect and help them, and he’s happy to use that power to demand the imposition of religious privileges, and institutional recognition of religious bigotry. To Paul Long, the welfare of those children, is to be intrinsically linked to maintaining & perpetuating the religious prejudices of those who run adoption services. Contrary to his tantrum, no one is asking Paul Long to ‘violate‘ his strongly held beliefs. He’s entitled to believe same-sex couples should have rights restricted, and that heterosexual couples should be granted institutional privileges. He’s perfectly entitled to ‘strongly hold‘ that belief. He isn’t entitled to use vulnerable children to perpetuate that belief, nor restrict the rights of others based on his belief. His right to believe, is not his right to impose.
The Michigan Catholic Conference websites implies that the threat to cease operations, is as an outside threat rather than their own, by suggesting that by passing the Bill, Snyder has heroically saved the adoption agencies:
“Michigan Catholic Conference applauds Governor Snyder and the Legislature for their support of these bills, which will maintain the State’s long-standing partnership with faith-based child placement agencies that has been successful in serving Michigan’s vulnerable children.”
– Deeply disingenuous language given that no one is actually threatening to shut down those agencies, other than the agencies themselves. It will only “maintain” the partnership, because the agencies themselves threaten – as Paul Long points out – to cease cooperation, if they’re not exempt from the very basic principle of church and state separation, continuing to pocket millions in tax payer dollars (including those contributed by the LGBT community) to uphold their bigotry.
We know from countless studies – including this study by the ‘British Association for Adoption and Fostering‘ – that adoption by same-sex couples is absolutely not harmful to the child’s development, that children thrive in a loving environment. And it’s not surprising that this is the case, given that personal prejudices based on outdated religious morality is not a reliable indicator of social cohesion. For example, a report coauthored by Benjamin Siegel for the ‘American Academy of Pediatrics‘ notes:
“Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”
– Thousands of children waiting for a loving family, can join a loving same-sex couple family to no one’s detriment, and to both the benefit of the child and the parents. To restrict that by ignoring the evidence in favour of religious prejudices, is to impose and enshrine those religious prejudices onto those children who are given no choice, whilst also restricting the right of those couples to adopt – a right that heterosexual couples enjoy without question. Therefore, we must conclude that Gov. Synder based his decision to sign the law not on evidence based reasoning or what is best for children (a stable loving family), but instead caved into pressure from – among others – adoption agencies’ threats based solely on bigotry – to abuse their position as the state’s key provider of adoption services for the most vulnerable people in the country, if they’re not allowed to impose their own unsubstantiated prejudices onto those children.
We must further conclude that for The Michigan Catholic Conference and the religious adoption agencies it worked to protect, child welfare is of secondary importance to the ‘freedom‘ to treat children as conduits for religious supremacy & privilege. That unless the state agrees to restrict rights for the LGBT community based solely on the religious beliefs of someone else, those agencies will refuse to help the children they’re supposed to be protecting. There are few less appropriate people that I would trust with the welfare of children, than people who are willing to use those children to advance a religious dream of state power and coercion.
Same-sex adoption is not harmful to children. Refusing those children the right to a loving family, based on the religious beliefs of those who are supposed to protect them, is what is harmful to children. If adoption agencies aren’t willing to serve same-sex couples, they should not be trusted with the welfare of children.