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Attorney General Dana Nessel of Michigan.Click on Detroit via YouTube.

LANSING (LifeSiteNews) — A years-long conflict over Christian adoption agencies’ right to insist on homes with both a mother and a father appears to finally be ending in the agencies’ favor, thanks to a settlement agreement filed Tuesday.

In 2019, Michigan’s Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel entered an agreement to end the state’s financial support to adoption and foster care agencies that adhere to religious principles regarding adoption and homosexuality. 

The settlement required Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to adhere to federal rules regarding discrimination in its contracts with faith-based foster care and adoption agencies, and called on Michigan to terminate contracts with agencies that either “discriminate” against same-sex couples or “LGBTQ” individuals who would otherwise qualify to become foster or adoptive parents, or that refer them to other agencies.

The move sparked a lawsuit, with the religious liberty nonprofit Becket Fund suing both Michigan and the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on behalf of adoptive services contractor St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Chad & Melissa Buck, a married couple that has adopted five kids through the agency.

In December 2019, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ruled in favor of St. Vincent, issuing a preliminary injunction against Nessel. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of religious adoption agencies in a different case, out of Philadelphia, that nonetheless had ramifications for the Michigan fight.

The Associated Press reports that the state admits defeat in a settlement agreement filed in federal court, recognizing the binding nature of the Philadelphia ruling.

“While this outcome is not what we hoped for, we are committed to providing support to the many members in the LGBTQ+ community who want to open their hearts and their homes,” said Demetrius Starling, executive director of MDHHS’s Children’s Services Agency.

Under the settlement, which still needs a judge’s final approval, Michigan cannot end St. Vincent’s contracts on the basis of its refusal to place children in unmarried or same-sex homes, and must pay the charity $550,000 for attorney fees and expenses.

“We are overjoyed that the State of Michigan has now recognized the important role religious adoption and foster care agencies like Saint Vincent Catholic Charities play in helping children find loving homes,” said Melissa Buck. “We are relieved to know that Saint Vincent, in partnership with the State of Michigan, can now, finally, get back to placing vulnerable children with families like ours without the threat of closure.”

As Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued in the Philadelphia case, there is a “national shortage of loving homes for our most needy children: those who have been neglected or abused and are now in state custody.”

“Yet government officials are driving away faith-based adoption providers because those officials dislike the providers’ religious beliefs about marriage,” ADF says. “Purging these providers does not help a single child find a forever home. To the contrary, a diverse array of providers recruits more families, and faith-based agencies do some of the best work finding homes for hard-to-place children and those in large sibling groups. Ignoring this, officials have persuaded courts to overlook these realities—and the free-exercise rights of religious providers.”

In addition, a variety of social science literature supports the conviction that children are best served by homes with both a mother and a father, as each sex tends to bring unique strengths and emphases to parenting, which complement one another; and gives children a positive role model of their own sex as well as helping them understand and relate to the opposite sex. By contrast, a homosexual male couple would by definition lack a mother, and a lesbian couple would be unable to provide a father.