Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an emergency motion Friday trying to suspend a federal court ruling that allowed religious adoption agencies to not work with LGBTQ parents seeking to adopt a child because of religious beliefs.
Nessel’s emergency motion argues the injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker “turns the status quo on its head rather than maintaining it” and that the judge’s opinion misinterprets Michigan law.
“At the center of the dispute are children who are wards of the state and eligible for adoption through St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which has contracted with the state “to provide publicly funded foster care and adoption services to children in care regardless of its beliefs but on the same terms and conditions as other child place agencies,” the Michigan Attorney General press release says.
Two weeks ago in the Buck v. Gordon case, Jonker ruled religious agencies that are contracted with Michigan have the ability to not place children with same-sex couples. In his opinion, the judge said the state’s real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the State’s own.”
Also in the opinion, Jonker says the attorney general is at the “very heart of the case.” Nessel, who is openly gay, called people who supported a 2015 Michigan law that allowed state-contracted child-placement agencies to decline services that go against their religious beliefs “hate-mongers.” Furthermore, while running for attorney general, Nessel called the law “indefensible.”
“All of this supports a strong inference that St. Vincent was targeted based on its religious belief, and that it was Defendant Nessel who targeted it,” the George W. Bush appointee judge wrote.
Previously, Michigan defended this law when it was sued in 2015, but switched its position four years later after Nessel took office, according to court documents.
The motion filed by the attorney general called the court’s focus on her past statements as a private citizen a “clear error.” Nessel argued her past comments were made about pending legislation, did not express religious hostility and didn’t violate the department’s neutral position on religion, according to the emergency motion. Furthermore, she cites the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v Hawaii, where it ruled a federal court’s role is not to denounce government official’s statements.
“Children who are wards of this state deserve families who love and respect them; they need and deserve forever families – not hostile court battles and rhetoric that overshadows the very purpose of this case,” Nessel said. “Judge Jonker’s comments unnecessarily inflamed an issue that at its core is about adhering to contractual obligations with the state; nothing more and nothing less.”
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