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Illinois GOP Lawmakers Attempt, Again, To Carve Out Religious Exceptions To State Civil Union Law

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Downstate Republican State Rep. Dwight Kay last month filed legislation that could water down Illinois' civil union law, if it is approved by the general assembly and signed by the governor.
Downstate Republican State Rep. Dwight Kay last month filed legislation that could water down Illinois' civil union law, if it is approved by the general assembly and signed by the governor.

A downstate Republican lawmaker is pushing a new bill to the Illinois state general assembly which attempts to introduce exceptions to the state's civil unions law allowing faith-based institutions to continue to deny adoptions to same-sex couples.

State Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville) filed the bill (HB3942) late last month.

The bill, as written, would amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act to provide that any faith-based child welfare agency "may decline an adoption or foster family home application, including any related licensure and placement, from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization's sincerely held religious beliefs."

Further, if an agency declines such a couple's application, the bill states that the agency must refer them to another agency that would license them as adoptive or foster parents.

Last year, the state canceled its more than $30.6 million worth of contracts with Catholic Charities because they argued that charities in Peoria, Joliet, Springfield and Bellville were not following Illinois non-discrimination laws in denying adoption and foster care placements for couples in civil unions.

The charities said that they shouldn't be forced to place children in families whose lives don't align with Catholic teaching, namely unmarried or same-sex couples, and sued the state.

Judges at both the circuit and appellate levels ultimately agreed with the state's position that the charities could not contract to provide a service for the state while not following that state's laws.

Kay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his proposal is "just another common sense bill." The measure has, as of Tuesday, attracted just two co-sponsors: State Rep. David Reis (R-Ste. Marie) and state Rep. Paul Evans (R-O'Fallon).

"Religious based childcare done by Catholic and Lutheran organizations has been an integral part of the state of Illinois," Kay said. "It has done a better job of handling child care services and it's done much cheaper."

Kay filed similar legislation last spring that mirrored the language of a Senate bill which also failed, the Windy City Times reported. As Equality Illinois public policy director Randy Hannig told the Chicago Phoenix, Kay's latest bill marks the fifth such piece of legislation that has been filed in the state general assembly in an attempt to water down the state's civil union law over the past year.

"Catholic Charities have gone through the courts and the courts have said 'no,'" Hannig told the Phoenix. "The governor said that there's no way that any adoption services will discriminate against same-sex couples. You'd think that when all three branches of government disagree with you, you'd give up."

Last fall, state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) also filed similar legislation. The measure (SB2495) was cosponsored by every active Republican State Senator, plus one Democratic lawmaker: William Haine (D-Alton).

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