Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel files for emergency motion in anti-LGBTQ adoption case

By: - October 11, 2019 2:42 pm
lgbt adoption

Families at Michigan Pride, June 15, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Two weeks after a federal judge said the state can’t refuse to work with anti-LGBTQ adoption agencies, Attorney General Dana Nessel seeks to appeal that opinion. 

Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

Nessel’s office announced Friday that she sought an emergency motion in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan following the order late last month from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids. The motion is to pause Jonker’s opinion, pending the appeal. 

The case, Buck v. Gordon, was brought by foster parents Melissa and Chad Buck of Holt, foster child Shamber Flore and St. Vincent Catholic Charities. In March, Nessel settled a previous case, Dumont v. Lyon. That was brought by same-sex couples, including one that was denied adoption by St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which received state funding for adoption services through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

As a result of that settlement, Nessel said the state would not do business with adoption agencies that refuse to let same-sex couples adopt. Buck v. Gordon challenges that decision.

In a statement announcing the emergency request for a stay pending appeal, Nessel pointed to several flaws in the court’s preliminary injunction. Among them were Jonker accusing Nessel of being “anti-Catholic.” 

Nessel said that Jonker’s order “misinterprets Michigan law” and would have the outcome of DHHS having to “turn a blind eye” if the Catholic charities are in violation of the state’s law regarding public funding for private charities. 

“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 in a statement. “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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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.