(Reuters) - Michigan's governor signed legislation on Thursday allowing private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples on religious grounds, one of a series of Republican-backed measures at the state level targeting gay couples.
Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed three bills into law a day after Michigan's Republican-controlled Senate approved the measures that had been advanced by the state House of Representatives. The American Civil Liberties Union said it plans to file a court challenge to the new laws.
The action comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling by the end of this month on whether same-sex marriage will be legalized nationwide.
It came on the same day that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina pushed through legislation permitting government officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages by citing religious objections, overriding the governor's veto.
The Michigan bills that were signed into law let faith-based agencies that contract with Michigan refuse adoption services to couples on religious grounds. The legislation does not specifically mention gay couples, but is considered a version of religious freedom acts considered in a number of states to shield businesses that may refuse services to same-sex couples from discrimination lawsuits.
Child placement agencies that decline services to couples will be required promptly to provide prospective adoptive parents a list of other adoption agencies willing and able to serve them.
One bill amended the state's child protection act and the others amended other laws to add language on refusing service.
Freedom Michigan, a coalition of business and other groups supporting gay rights, said the law will make it harder for the more than 13,000 children in the state's adoption and foster care system to find nurturing homes.
"This horrific law is an affront to thousands of households led by same-sex couples," Freedom Michigan said in a statement. "It ignores the tens of thousands of Michiganders who spoke out against it."
Michigan has the fifth largest population of children waiting for adoption in the United States and there is no room for discrimination, according to the ACLU of Michigan.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 of the 50 states. In a 37th, Alabama, a federal court struck down the gay-marriage ban but the state supreme court has stopped local officials from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Will Dunham)