A bill that would have amended the Illinois civil unions act to allow religious institutions running adoption services on behalf of the state the right to discriminate against providing services to gay couples in civil unions was killed Wednesday in senate committee by a vote of 7-6.
Speaking to Windy City Times immediately after the vote, Ed Yohnka, communications director of ACLU said, “This means that the senate executive committee has rejected an effort to write discrimination into the law. On the back of the historic civil-unions law, that really would have been a tragedy. The hard work that folks did in the last 48 hours in terms of really spreading the word about this and making the damage that this would has really paid off. I think people were well-educated in terms of what this would mean.”
Antonio Muñoz was the only Democrat who voted for the bill, and Rick Garcia offered Windy City Times a behind-the-scenes look at how that came to be, saying that, “Senaor Muñoz only voted yes because [ as he indicated ] that yesterday when he had talked to Senator Koehler, he was “unaware” of the great opposition to this bill. And he said, ‘Because I gave you my word, I will vote yes, but I don’t think that, if it gets out of committee, I don’t think I can vote on the floor for it.’ Here again, this is very interesting because what that was about is that we were down here and we were visible and we did a really excellent job in articulating that this is not acceptable.”
Garcia also spoke about the role of the Catholic Conference’s stand on the matter, saying that, at one point, “[ They were ] asked by one of the dissenters, what would happen to the children in the charity’s care if this bill does not pass. And the spokesman suggested that the Catholic charities would have to get out of the child welfare business. I think that’s a bluff … other dioceses have threatened it. But fine. Let them get out of the child welfare business, if they’re basing everything on anti-gay messages, let them get out. Some people have said we have to stop antagonizing faith-based organizations and to that I say a resounding, ‘Bullshit.’ Because if we weren’t here antagonizing the Catholic Conference … we would have lost.”
Senate Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 1123, which was introduced late on Monday attached to a proposed amendment to the White Cane Law which provides rights and accommodations for the visually impaired, would have permitted religiously-based adoption agencies acting on behalf of the State of Illinois (therefore receiving state funds) to discriminate against gay couples in a civil union per their religious freedom of conscience.
The bill garnered a lot of attention earlier this week because its chief sponsor is the same Democrat who backed the civil unions bill that was signed into law just months ago. The bill was also mainly sponsored by Democratic legislators. LGBT rights advocates had been concerned that because of this, the legislation might not be perceived as hostile and would stand a better chance of passing.
It is unclear if this attempt to exempt religious institutions was in response to the Department of Children and Family Services’ announcement last month that it would investigate whether religious institutions receiving state funds in Illinois could discriminate or whether they must, under the state’s current human rights act, provide services to same-sex couples in civil unions. You can read more on that here.