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Judge Halts Illinois From Ending Catholic Charities Adoption Contracts Over Civil Unions

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Illinois has decided to end its involvement and financial contracts for Catholic Charities' adoption and foster services in the wake of the religious organization's refusal to follow the state's new civil unions law and existing anti-discrimination policies. A judge has, however, temporarily reinstated contracts between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Catholic Charities until after a hearing set for August 17.

At issue, the Illinois DCFS said the state could not accept the Catholic Charities contracts because the "agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act," which requires prospective foster and adoptive parents in civil unions to be treated the same as married couples.

"We cannot enter into a contract for services with anyone who has publicly, affirmatively stated that they will not follow the law in delivering those services," DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlow said. "These agencies have chosen this course and we must now plan to transition these cases with the least disruption possible."

Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield filed a lawsuit last month for a blanket "religious exemption" from state law in how they administer the over $30 million dollars they receive annually from the state of Illinois for adoption services, saying they could not place children with couples in civil unions for religious reasons. Catholic Charities has roughly 2,000 foster children in their care, which state officials say other agencies complying with the civil union law will step up to take. In the first month since the law passed, over 1600 couples in Illinois have entered into civil unions. Those couples would be denied adoption and foster services from Catholic Charities under their current, religious-based guidelines.

"We're not going back," Governor Pat Quinn said. "They made a choice. Any organization that decides that because of the civil unions law that they won't participate voluntarily in a program, that's their choice."

Catholic Charities had been fighting the civil unions law for some time now, from threatening to pull out of all adoption service (which they did) to their current lawsuits over having to follow the law when they receive state funds and operate in the public sphere. Assistant Attorney General Deborah Barnes, representing DCFS and the Illinois Department of Human Rights against Catholic Charities, says it best:

The state declined to issue new contracts because the plaintiffs indicated they will not comply with state laws. There is no right to a contract with the government; they're not compelled to then take control and administer it in a fashion which forces them to compromise their religious beliefs.

So for now, at least, roughly 25% of the adoption services paid for by the state and by our tax dollars are unavailable to couples in civil unions.

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