LANSING, Mich. — Just this past week, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Philadelphia can’t refuse to work with a faith based agency because it will not certify same-sex couples as foster parents. It’s a battle between protection of religious exercise and LGBTQ rights, something a mid-Michigan couple knows about.
Soon after their marriage five years ago, Anthony Soto and James McGrath realized they were ready for the next step in building their family and open to fostering to eventually adopt. But living in Texas then, like Michigan at the time and so many other states right now, was in a battle as to whether a state can cut-off its relationship with a foster or adoption.
McGrath who was working at Texas A & M at the time is currently the president, dean and professor at WMU-Cooley Law School and describes the controversy. “That means if you are going to provide these services for the state, you can’t discriminate on any of the protected classes which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.”
McGrath says at the time in Texas, there were a number of different fostering agencies which simply didn’t accept gay or lesbian couples, but Anthony says living in a bigger city like Fort Worth helped them in their search for an accepting agency. “Luckily we knew people in the area that had used the agency prior, so for us that was a very important piece of the process.”
The couple quickly found a fit with then 4 ½ year old Kinsey and a year in a half later they officially adopted Kinsey in November of 2018. Anthony said, “We sort of had that moment when you saw her, and we said, ‘Ok this is our family.’” James added, “She just fit right into our family. We have animals, cats and dogs and she just came in and immediately became part of the family.” Kinsey who will turn 9 this summer is excited to return to in-person school again this fall when she enters the 3rd grade.
The now family of three lives in Lansing and says overall their community is accepting, however there aren’t any similar families in their school or community, at-least that they know of, but Anthony says they generally feel “accepted” with James adding, “If you look at the nationwide statistics, 21% I think of same sex couples have adopted, but again you have to be open, you have to be out there. So not everybody is out there. I grew up in an era where it was kind of dangerous to self-disclose that you are gay or lesbian. I personally have never been the victim, but have been around when these things have happened and have friends who have been victims of gay bashing. That’s not what’s happening here and now, it’s just we feel more invisible I think.”
As a pride flag waves proudly in their yard this month, this now complete family says the progress they are seeing across the country is a welcomed change, regardless of what the courts may say. “During Pride Month, even in Lansing and Detroit, I see stores having the gay flag and publicly supporting the LGBT community, and I think that’s something that I certainly didn’t see 25 years ago. So I think all those things help,” Anthony told Fox 17.
A federal judge in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan recently entered a temporary order that allows religious adoption agencies to continue their selective practices, but that is still pending and it’s expected the final ruling will involve an appeal, regardless of the court order.