Catholic Charities, an organization in Illinois that used state funds to run adoption and foster care services, has decided to drop its appeal of a court ruling saying that the state can lawfully cut contracts with the group over Catholic Charities refusal to serve same-sex couples in civil unions looking to foster and adopt.
In a joint statement Monday, diocese officials in Joliet, Springfield and Belleville said the decision was reached “with great reluctance.” The Catholic Diocese of Peoria withdrew from the litigation last month.
It became financially impossible for the remaining Roman Catholic agencies to continue and the courts had refused to grant a stay in the case, the officials said.
“Since we now need to close offices and terminate employees, further appeals would be moot,” said the statement from the three dioceses.
Officials with the Thomas Moore Society, which represented Illinois Catholic Charities in the litigation, said the state was already canceling its contracts and moving services to other agencies.
When Illinois’ civil unions law came into effect earlier this year, some charities chose to end their services rather comply with the state’s new laws. This is because Illinois has a strict gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and the civil union law enacted earlier this year was designed to be a state equivalent of marriage — therefore it was to be given the same legal standing.
As such the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services concluded that it could no longer contract with organizations that refused to serve same-sex couples. The state ended $30 million worth of contracts with Catholic Charities across four church dioceses, Peoria, Joliet, Springfield, and Bellville, in July.
Catholic Charities sued, arguing before Illinois Circuit Judge John Schmidt that there is a legal exemption in the civil unions law that means they do not have to recognize the same-sex unions. However, state lawyers argued this exemption does not extend to public service organizations contracting with the state. Catholic Charities also said the state had a responsibility to maintain finance for Catholic Charities’ services so as not to harm the children in its care. The latter argument persuaded the judge to prevent the state from withdrawing its support in the short term while the case was ongoing.
However, Schmidt eventually ruled that the state has autonomy in who it chooses to contract with. He stayed clear of ruling on the issue of religious freedom which was thought to be an issue that lawyers for Catholic Charities would concentrate on during their appeal.
As above, this appeal has now been abandoned, a move welcomed by Illinois LGBT rights group The Civil Rights Agenda who reportedly said in a statement:
“Finding a loving home for the thousands of children in the foster/adoption system should be the priority, not trying to exclude people based on religious dogma. Dropping this suit is a step in the right direction for what is best for all the citizens of this great state.”