(Reuters) - Adoption agencies in Michigan would be able to refuse service on religious grounds to homosexual couples who want to adopt children under three bills that the state's Republican-controlled Senate passed on Wednesday.
The bills, which must be signed by the governor to become law, say child-placing agencies shall not be required to provide adoption services under circumstances that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs contained in a written policy or other document. The agencies are private, but receive state funding.
While the bills do not specifically mention lesbian and gay couples, they are viewed as narrow versions of religious freedom acts passed in a number of states to shield businesses that want to refuse service to same-sex couples from discrimination lawsuits.
Supporters say the acts protect religious freedoms, while others say they are licenses to discriminate. With 37 states now allowing same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court has taken up the issue this year and conservative groups are turning toward backing religious-freedom laws from fighting recent battles on gay marriage.
Half of Michigan's $20 million public budget for adoption agencies goes to religiously affiliated organizations, The Detroit Free Press reported.
Michigan's lower house, also Republican-controlled, has already passed the three bills. One would amend the state's child protection act and the others would amend other laws to add language on refusing service.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Republican Governor Rick Snyder has not been clear about whether he will sign the bills into law, saying that they need further review.
The Michigan arm of the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted to followers asking them to call the governor and tell him not to sign the bills.
"Michigan has the fifth largest population of children waiting for adoption in the country. There is no room for discrimination," the group tweeted.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Lambert)