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.
Photo from lssagm via Wikimedia Commons.