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New Michigan law lets adoption agencies decline referrals

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed a law letting private adoption agencies with state contracts decline to participate in referrals against their religious beliefs, despite criticism that it amounts to government-sanctioned discrimination against gay couples.

The Republican told The Associated Press that the legislation codifies an existing practice within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which relies on private agencies to help find temporary or permanent homes for 13,000 children in foster care at any given time.

“This is about making sure we get the largest number of kids in forever families,” Snyder said in a phone interview. “The more opportunities and organizations we have that are doing a good job of placing people in loving families, isn’t that better for all of us?”

Only two other states, Virginia and North Dakota, have laws that are explicit in allowing private adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents for religious reasons.
Snyder acted a day after the bills cleared the GOP-controlled Legislature almost entirely along party lines. Opponents compared the legislation to a religious objections law in Indiana that had to be softened after a backlash.

The Michigan Catholic Conference and others have lobbied for the legislation for years, but it has gained traction ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling on gay marriage in the coming weeks. In 2011, Illinois ended long-standing contracts with Catholic Charities to provide foster care and adoptions because of the group’s practice of referring unmarried couples to other agencies.

Under Michigan’s law, an agency with religious objections to a prospective adoption will have to refer an applicant to another “willing and able” agency or to a state website listing other providers.

The measure specifies that child-placing agencies do not have to provide services in conflict with their “sincerely held” religious beliefs, meaning they can decline a referral for foster care management or adoption services without fear of an “adverse action” by the state or local governments.

Private agencies — which received $19.9 million from the state for adoption services in the last fiscal year — will be able to cite the law as a defense in judicial or administrative proceedings. If they decline to provide services, they must give applicants a written list of other adoption or foster care providers.


Commission approves hotel demolition for Red Wings arena

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit commission has approved plans to demolish a vacant historic hotel as part of construction of a new Red Wings hockey arena north of downtown.
The Detroit Historic District Commission voted 3-1 Wednesday in favor of razing the Park Avenue Hotel, which was built in the 1920s. Olympia Development of Michigan has said demolition of the hotel is needed to build a high-capacity loading bay for the arena.

Olympia Development is owned by Wings’ owners Mike and Marian Illitch. City Council members approved rezoning property for the project in April. The $450 million arena with 20,000 seats is expected to open in 2017.

It’s being called the “Detroit Events Center” during construction and will host other events.


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