Springfield, IL —
Illinois State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Decatur) on Wednesday introduced legislation which would make clear that Illinois State should not discriminate against religious organizations that handle state contracts for foster care. Currently, there are no co-sponsors to the bill.
The bill amends the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act and provides that a child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization 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. If an agency declines an application, it must provide the applicant with information on how to contact the Department of Children and Family Services to obtain information concerning other regional licensed child welfare agencies. If passed the bill would take effective immediately.
Since the implementation of the Civil Union Act earlier this year, several Catholic Charities chapters in Illinois have launched unsuccessful challenges in the courts in order to avoid serving the gay community.
"We have seen this bill before in the House of Representatives," stated Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda. "Obviously, the civil institutions behind this affront to LGBT civil rights are not backing down. We will not either. We had hoped to kill this bill quietly as has been done in the past. Unfortunately, that strategy is no longer an option and our opposition has now been galvanized. We will ensure that our followers and the community are informed as to the appropriate action once the General Assembly reconvenes."
Peter C. Breen, an attorney who represents Catholic Charities, said he applauds the new bill. "The people of Illinois do not want to see Catholic Charities and other religious-based foster care agencies driven out of business, period," Breen said. "Lawmakers intended when they passed the civil union law to protect religious groups from compromising their beliefs regarding civil unions."
"It's important for advocacy groups to understand the difference between politics and the legislative process," said Lowell Jaffe, Political and Policy Director of The Civil Rights Agenda, "Senator McCarter is only doing this for political reasons, he's in a conservative district and running for re-election. Passage of the Civil Union Act shows that we have the support of the State House, Senate and Governor. Recent court rulings have also upheld LGBT rights in regards to adoption and foster care."