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Nessel’s adoption mandate up for debate in federal court

The state attorney general’s new policy about faith-based adoption agencies will be up for debate in federal court.

Several years ago, former Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that allowed faith-based adoption agencies to turn away prospective families for religious reasons and still get state dollars. A same sex couple took the state to court.

Then new Attorney General Dana Nessel took office. She settled that case in March. The settlement required the state to only give contracts to agencies if they did not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Now faith-based agencies are suing the state. They say the settlement conflicts with the 2015 law. They also say they’ll have to shut their doors if they lose state funding – but their religious beliefs prevent them from working with same sex couples.

“The state is violating the First Amendment,” said Nick Reaves, an attorney with Becket Law – the firm representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities. “They’re targeting people’s religious beliefs because they’re choosing to ignore laws protecting those beliefs.”

Speaking on WDET’s Detroit Today show, Attorney General Dana Nessel said the settlement created good public policy.

“As long as they’re loving, good parents to a child, that should be what we are concerned with more than anything else,” she said. “And we don’t think that the state did anything incorrect in terms of the settlement.”

A Grand Rapids judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Thursday and then decide if the faith-based agencies can continue to operate under the 2015 while their lawsuit against Nessel’s policy plays out in court.