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Judge considers whether to dismiss a case in the latest battle over religious freedom and LGBT right
Shamber Flore, 20, center behind, talks and bakes a cake with younger siblings Justice, 11, Mercy, 9, Jubilee, 7, and Lucas, 10, left to right clockwise, in the family's kitchen and dining room area at home in DeWitt, MI June 18, 2018. - photo by Gillian Friedman
On Thursday in a Michigan courtroom, a judge heard arguments over whether to dismiss a lawsuit that could have ramifications for religious organizations around the country, as well as for LGBT couples looking to foster and adopt children.

The case, Dumont v. Lyon, centers around the question of whether faith-based adoption agencies that receive government money can turn away same-sex couples.

As one of the first cases of its kind, experts say its likely to set a legal precedent with implications in courts and state legislatures across the country. The Deseret News covered the case in-depth earlier this week.

The ACLU sued the state of Michigan in September of last year, arguing that by contracting with agencies which refuse to serve same-sex couples, the state is violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

St. Vincent Catholic Charities asked to intervene in the case and is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit law firm.

Shamber Flore, a former foster child who was adopted through St. Vincent, and Melissa Buck, who adopted five foster children with special needs through the agency, also asked to intervene alongside St. Vincent and are represented by Becket. They submitted statements to the court that were included in Thursday's hearing.

St. Vincent argues that serving same-sex couples would compromise its religious convictions. Becket claims there are legal exemptions which allow for state money to be used while respecting religious belief.

Becket and the state of Michigan asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, and Thursdays hearing in the Eastern District Court of Michigan focused on that motion specifically, arguing that "there is no basis for allowing this lawsuit to proceed." The ACLU opposed the motion.

Oral arguments lasted over two hours, but the judge did not issue an immediate decision.

"Today, we are hopeful that after the court listened to these arguments, that he will understand what is at stake, that he will understand that closing down St. Vincent does nothing to allow same-sex families to adopt, but it does take away critical service and more families and homes that children desperately rely on in the state of Michigan," said Stephanie Barclay, legal counsel for Becket, live on Twitter after the hearing.

Barclay told the Deseret News she was "cautiously optimistic" about District Judge Paul D. Borman granting the dismissal. "This is a judge that asks hard, probing questions of all the parties, and I think hes going to give the case careful consideration," she added.

Flore and Buck also shared their reactions after the hearing.

"We are grateful that the judge allowed our voice to be heard, and after oral argument, we are hopeful that the future of all orphan children will remain bright," said Buck.

Leslie Cooper, Deputy Director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project and an attorney on the case, said the judge was "very engaged with the arguments about why this case needs to move forward."

The case began when Kristy and Dana Dumont, a same-sex married couple living in Michigan, contacted St. Vincent Catholic Charities to inquire about foster care and adoption services. They said the agency told them they didn't work with same-sex couples. The same news came from Bethany Christian Services, another faith-based adoption agency.

Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton are committed to opening their home to provide love and support that a child needs," said Cooper. "We are hopeful that the court will rule quickly so that children in Michigan who need a loving home have access to as many qualified parents as possible.

"We felt that the arguments went well," Kaplan added. "We remain cautiously optimistic."

Borman did not give a specific time frame for his ruling.