States of Equality: Dana & Christy in MI

Few things are as powerful as a personal story. As part of our States of Equality campaign, Family Equality Council is sharing stories from LGBTQ families & individuals who have faced discrimination across the U.S.

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Speaker 1: What kind of family do you envision? What kind of activities do you envision doing?

Kristy: I’m a huge Halloween fan. It is by far my favorite holiday. I would love to be able to do costumes and trick or treating.

Dana: We have about two acres in the woods, and we’ve got some trails and stuff like that. I’d get a little mini bike, and that would be fun to ride around the children.

Kristy: Just doing stuff all together.

Kristy: It wasn’t until marriage equality went across the coutnry in 2015.

Kristy: Dana works for the Save Michigan, and she gets these emails all the time from her Department of Health and Human Services about foster care, and adoption.

Dana: Seeing those kids out there who are waiting for homes, it’s heartbreaking. We’re both pretty stable in our career.

Kristy: Stable in our relationship. Very stable in our relationship. We have a good home, and it just kind of felt like that’s what we needed to do.

Dana: We want to foster to adopt, and we look for agencies in our county. We want to be close in case they have any friends or family in their area that they still want to stay in contact with.

Kristy: So, we looked on the website and found the agencies that were available to us at the time. We called all the agencies, “My wife and I are interested in fostering to adopt,” and because we were same sex couple, they told us they would not work with us. One actually said it’s their policy not to place children with same sex couples.

Dana: It was shocking. I guess we knew that they were religious agencies, and we knew it was a possibility, but regardless, just hearing no, grate to your face, it feels like.

Kristy: Yeah, I think the part for me that bothered me the most is that’s all the information they got from us. They didn’t take the chance to find out our names or who we were as people, how we were as a couple, what we did for a living, nothing. It was just on us being two women being together.

Dana: It was only about a year ago that we filed a lawsuit.

Kristy: Yeah, right.

Dana: But the ACLU wanted to first contact the Department of Health and Human Services and ask them if they would reconsider, or if they had anything to say about it, and they just said, “No. You’re gonna sue us. So, sue us.” And we’ve been involved with them since.

Kristy: Yeah, our family, right as the lawsuit was about to be filed really panicked. Like, “Are you two sure you want to do this? You’re gonna be in the spotlight. You’re gonna get a lot of hate because of this.”

Dana: Hate mail, yeah.

Kristy: And it actually has been exactly the opposite. We have had nothing but a show of support coming from all over the country. It’s been absolutely incredible. This is definitely about us, but it’s less about us than it is about the kids waiting for foster care, or being adopted. Agencies are turning away viable families, and these kids are out there waiting for homes, and it’s about those kids out there waiting, and there’s 13,000 of them in Michigan. So, that’s what it’s all about.

Dana: Yes.

Kristy: It’s bigger than us.

For the past few years, Kristy and Dana have been preparing their life for children. A couple for over a decade, the prospective parents have been hoping to provide a forever home to children in foster care. They moved into a beautiful neighborhood in Dimondale, Michigan — a community with spacious backyards and plenty of trails for lazy Sunday bike-rides. They researched the school district, ensuring that there would be plenty of extracurricular activities. They decorated spare bedrooms with bright, warm, colors for future foster children and family visits.

A couple like this may seem to be the ideal prospective adoptive parents. Yet when they reached out to state-contracted child placing agencies to move forward with adoption, they were turned away because they are a same-sex couple.

Dana, who works for the state department, would receive emails from Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services with profiles and photos of youth who were in need of adoptive families. These images warmed her heart and she would share them with Kristy, and the two began seriously considering adoption.

The couple reached out to two child placing agencies in their area: Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services. The agencies did not subject them to any in-depth investigation of their relationship or character — the only thing they knew was that the pair was a same-sex couple. And they were turned away because same-sex couples do not meet these agencies’ religious eligibility standards.

Kristy and Dana were determined to do something about the fact that the number of forever families available for the thousands of children in the state of Michigan’s care was being limited by the discriminatory practices of some state-contracted child placing agencies.

They are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenging the state’s practice of allowing state-contracted, taxpayer-funded child placing agencies to use religious criteria to exclude prospective foster and adoptive families headed by same-sex couples.

At first, the couple was bracing themselves for bigotry and criticism, but they were pleasantly surprised by an outpouring of support from around the country. They receive postcards, thank-you notes and letters from other same-sex families who are inspired and encouraged by their advocacy.

For Dana and Kristy, it remains all about the children. “It’s about those kids out their waiting, and there are 13,000 in Michigan. That’s what it’s all about,” Kristy said.

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