Snyder announced he had signed the legislation — House Bills 4188, 4189, 4190 — just one day after the Michigan Senate approved the bills. The Michigan House already passed the bills in March.
In a statement, Snyder said he signed the legislation as a means to ensure children without homes in Michigan have access to families to care for them. The new laws are set to go into effect in 90 days.
“The state has made significant progress in finding more forever homes for Michigan kids in recent years and that wouldn’t be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process,” Snyder said. “We are focused on ensuring that as many children are adopted to as many loving families as possible regardless of their makeup.”
Nothing in the legislation mentions LGBT parents or same-sex marriage. Instead, the bill allows child placement agencies to refuse a state referral for the placement of a child if that service would conflict with the agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs as stated in written policy. LGBT advocates say the measures are a thinly veiled attempt to deny same-sex couples the ability to adopt and enable anti-LGBT discrimination in Michigan.
On Twitter, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin blasted Snyder, saying the governor was making an untrue statement about the impact of the bills.
MI Gov @onetoughnerd's statement is shameless, claiming he cares abt getting youth into loving homes. Not true. He has done grave harm today
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) June 11, 2015
The governor signs the legislation even though he publicly stated amid controversy over Indiana’s religious freedom law he’d veto a similar bill in Michigan if it came to him as standalone legislation.
The measures become law ahead of an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision this month that would establish whether same-sex couples have a right to marry across the country, including Michigan, where the ban on same-sex marriage remains in effect.
Among the supporters of religious freedom adoption measures were Catholic adoption agencies in Michigan. After Massachusetts, Illinois and D.C. legalized same-sex unions, Catholic adoption agencies elected to discontinue services there on the basis that gay nuptials conflict with their religious principles.
Snyder’s office gave to the Blades letter from Bethany Christian Services and the Michigan Catholic Conference threatening to close services in Michigan unless religious freedom adoption laws were passed. According to Snyder’s office, those agencies account for an average of 25 to 30 percent of foster care adoptions in the state.
In an undated letter, Bill Blacquiere, president of Bethany Christian Services, said new adoption laws are necessary to protect religious freedom in Michigan.
“In Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Illinois, numerous child-placement agencies either had to abandon their faith or abandon the child they serve,” Blacquiere writes. “That is an untenable choice, one that inevitably results in fewer resources available to recruit families and place children in loving homes.”
In a letter dated April 23, Paul Long, CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference, threatened to withdraw adoption services in Michigan under similar circumstances.
“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,” Long writes. “With deference to the best interests of vulnerable children, it is our hope that faith-based agencies in general and Catholic agencies in particular will never have to make such a difficult choice, especially when agencies that serve their clients with differing understandings of the family currently exist.”