Buck v. Gordon, No. 19-1959 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services contracts out most of its fostering and adoption services to private child-placing agencies (CPAs), which perform home evaluations of prospective adoptive and foster parent(s). One CPA, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, shares the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding same-sex marriage. It “cannot provide a written recommendation ... endorsing a family situation that would conflict with [its] religious beliefs” so St. Vincent refers out home evaluations for same-sex or unmarried couples to other CPAs. In 2015, Michigan codified this practice. M.C.L. 722.124e(1)(g) provides that “[t]o the fullest extent permitted by state and federal law," a CPA shall not be required to provide any services if those services conflict with, or provide any services under circumstances that conflict with," the CPA’s "sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Dumonts alleged that they were a same-sex couple interested in fostering and adoption, but that St. Vincent refused to assist them with the licensing process because of their sexual orientation. Michigan settled that suit by agreeing to enforce, against CPAs, a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. St. Vincent then claimed that the state violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by directing it to perform its duties in a manner that violates its sincerely held religious beliefs. The district court denied the Dumonts’ motions, seeking intervention. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to permissive intervention. Citing FRCP 24(b)(3), the court held that the Dumonts’ motion was timely, that it presented a common question of law, and that there is little risk of undue delay or prejudice to the existing parties.