Illinois Catholic Charities Can’t Discriminate Against Gay Couples


Earlier this year, the state of Illinois sparked controversy when it broke its contract for social services with a network of Catholic Charities.  The state broke ties with Catholic Charities, which had worked with the state on adoption and foster care placements, after they refused to recognize the newly passed civil unions law.

Catholic Charities had previously referred unmarried couples to other agencies and said that they would continue to do so, even with gay couples who had a civil union.  Illinois rightfully claimed that this was discriminatory and a violation of the state’s civil unions law.  But when the state canceled its contract with Catholic Charities last July, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt temporarily reinstated them while he considered the case.

On Thursday, however, Schmidt ruled in Illinois’ favor, saying that no one has the right to a contract with the state government.  He did not tackle the more difficult issue of whether it was legal for Catholic Charities to discriminate against gay couples in civil unions.

“The state has the freedom to set the limits of its contracts,” said Deborah Barnes, an attorney with the Office of the Attorney General. “It wasn’t arbitrary and capricious, the ending of this 40-year relationship… the legal landscape has changed.”

Catholic Charities said that it was exempt under the state’s protection of religious practices.  But Schmidt’s decision overrides that claim, by simply pointing out that no one is legally entitled to a state contract, and that ultimately it’s the state’s decision.  And Illinois decided, correctly, that to continue to work with Catholic Charities would be a violation of the civil unions law.

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Photo from lssagm via Wikimedia Commons.


Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

You call this a charity when it practices discrimination? Catholic charities may provide a number of services, but if you don't have separation of church and state, prepare to ask the pope to bail you out. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Render unto God what is God's.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

A child might actually be safer with a homosexual couple, neither of which is interested in anyone of the sex the child happens to be than with a heterosexual couple, one of whom might find the child sexually attractive. It is a tough call.

Carolyn M.
Carolyn M.5 years ago

Bill Z. I used the word "welfare" for a reason. It seems that those who begrudge anyone a single penny of taxpayer money like to call it "welfare" unless it's a project they agree with. Then it's legitimate funding. But since the W-word is bandied so easily (corporate welfare, wall street welfare, etc.) I figured it would be a term some could relate to.

I've experienced public money from both sides. On one side I worked with JTPA and other publicly funded programs to help people get training. On the other side I have recieved food stamps and Medicaid in the past. I do not begrudge any individual nor program that utilizes public money when it's needed.

Now, I freely admit that I do not know the details of how or why CC got the contract to begin with. I suspect, however, that what happened is that CC was already in the foster/adoption business (for lack of a better word) and requested public funds to assist them. That's all fine and dandy - as long as they are following the law.

Rob K.
Rob Keenan5 years ago

The court ruling still allows the Catholic Church to practice discrimmination,if that's it's LAW,Kathy B.The ruling just means that tax dollars don't need to support that discrimmination when it vioates STATE LAW.And one reason I left the Catholic Church is because it finds it more important to "protect"Catholic Children from gays than to protect them from pedephile priests.

Bill Z.
Bill Z.5 years ago

Carolyn--I was with you until you got to the word "welfare." The State needed a service performed that it didn't have the personnel to perform. Catholic Charities had the skills and experience to do it and was hired, like every other contractor, Now that Catholic Charities cannot meet one criterion, one that the State just introduced to the contract by enacting a law, the contratual relationship is no longer valid. A person who is hired to do a job does not get welfare; rather they are paid an earned salary.

Carolyn M.
Carolyn M.5 years ago

Kathy B., the CC isnt' banned, it's just not getting welfare anymore.

Carolyn M.
Carolyn M.5 years ago

Brian C., nobody's forcing the charity to change its core beliefs. Illinois is just not going to provide taxpayer dollars to said charity. The CC is more than welcome to raise their own funds and run their adoptions as they wish.

Sound M. you said "Next they'll try to tell us which sanctioned charities we can make donations to."

I don't see how you are making this leap. This really isn't a difficult situation to understand. If you want taxpayer dollars, you must follow the law. If you do not want to follow the law, you don't get taxpayer dollars.

Remember, taxes are monies we all have to pay. A donation is money you choose to pay. You are welcome to give money to whomever you please. The government is (or at least should be) restricted to giving money to those following the law.

Caitlin F. you said "The state should still be working with teh catholic charities, as they are doing good elsewhere in society."

Planned Parenthood is doing a whole lot more good elsewhere besides abortions (3% of what they do) yet many seem to think that that good elsewhere isn't good enough to deserve taxpayer money. And those many seem to be religious type folk. Goose and gander.

Marty D., the state still contracts with those other faith-based social service agencies because (I assume) that they are following state law regarding non-discrimination. If they are not, they should have their welfare (free taxpayer dollars) pulled too.

Kathy B., the CC isnt' banned, it'

Janice Redinger
Janice Redinger5 years ago

Angela, we DO have a long way to go. Then again, I am prejudice against ANYONE who would use the words God and Hate in the same sentence. The same goes for the extreme religious right and republicans. I have problems with those groups as well.

Janice Redinger
Janice Redinger5 years ago

If there is ANY federal or state funding going to ANY non profit agency, the should not be allowed to discriminate against ANY couples. Otherwise, I wouldn't even try to adopt kids from any "religious" agency.

Kathy Browne
Kathy Browne5 years ago

Hey, Hey, Hey,
Hold on a minute. The judge is asking a church to go AGAINST their own laws. There are plenty of other options here. The Catholic Church should not be banned because of their beliefs. HOW ABOUT THIS...they're right. These same sex couples are given an inch & they insist on a mile? That's ridiculous.

I'm sure if you are not Catholic they won't work with you. So there are other options. They help, they are not the be all & end all.