With Catholic Charities agencies unwilling to serve prospective parents who are in civil unions, the state of Illinois has declined to renew contracts under which they provided state-funded adoption and foster care services, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent letters last week to Catholic Charities affiliates in the dioceses of Peoria, Joliet, Springfield, and Belleville saying the state could not accept the contracts for the fiscal year that began July 1 because "your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act," which would require state contractors not to discriminate against couples in civil unions, which are available to both gay and straight partners.
Catholic Charities agencies had unsuccessfully backed legislation that would grant them an exemption from the law and allow them to refer couples in civil unions to other adoption providers. Before the letter went out, the diocese of Rockford's Catholic Charities had already voluntarily ended its contract with the state because of the civil union issue. Catholic Charities in the archdiocese of Chicago has not provided adoption or foster care placements since 2007, when it lost its insurance coverage. Other agencies have picked up the case load for Rockford and Chicago.
The dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet last month sued the Illinois attorney general and DCFS over the civil unions policy, asking a state court to affirm that they are legally entitled to consider only married couples and noncohabiting single people as adoptive or foster parents and to refer couples in civil unions elsewhere. Lawyers for these agencies plan to seek a court injunction Tuesday to allow their contracts with the state to stand.
More than 1,600 civil union licenses have been issued since the Illinois law went into effect June 1.