A Republican lawmaker in Illinois has once again introduced legislation to carve out religious exemptions from the state’s near year-old civil unions law, calling it “common sense” that religious adoption agencies should be able to turn away same-sex couples.
State Rep. Dwight Kay, R- Edwardsville, again filed legislation that would allow religion based or affiliated adoption agencies with state contracts to decline an adoption or foster family home application, as well as licensure and placement, to anyone in a civil union. State Rep. David Reis, R-Ste. Marie and state Rep. Paul Evans, R-O’Fallon, are co-sponsors of the legislation.
Kay said his legislation is “just another common sense bill.”
“Religious based childcare done by Catholic and Lutheran organizations has been an integral part of the state of Illinois,” Kay said. “It has done a better job of handling child care services and it’s done much cheaper.”
Kay introduced similar legislation last year, but it failed to gain momentum in the state’s Senate.
The issue of whether religious institutions that offer adoption services should be exempt from the law has been rumbling on ever since the state legalized same-sex civil unions last year. Illinois has a strict gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services concluded that it could no longer contract with organizations that refused to serve same-sex couples, but rather than comply with this ruling several institutions chose to close their services.
Indeed, the state ended $30 million worth of contracts with Catholic Charities across four church dioceses, Peoria, Joliet, Springfield, and Bellville, in July of last year because of their refusal to comply with the law.
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 same-sex unions. 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, Judge Schmidt later ruled that the state has autonomy in who it chooses to contract with, and can dictate conditions for those contracts based on state rules.
Catholic Charities later decided not to appeal this ruling.