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Adoptions by same-sex couples in Illinois

Part 2: Conflict between same-sex couples
and faith-based adoption agencies (Cont'd)

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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What will the future hold?

The three conservative Christian adoption agencies in Illinois might find themselves between a rock and a hard place:

  • Their religious beliefs make it impossible for them to consider all same-sex couples equally -- both same-sex and opposite-sex -- as potential adoptive parents.

  • Their financial needs makes them largely dependent on the state government. State funding for foster care fills from 15.5% to 66.1% of the total operating budget of the seven offices operated by these three agencies in Illinois. 1

  • Many children could potentially be displaced if the agencies and state are unable to find a suitable compromise. Estimates range from 2,500 to 3,193 children.

For Catholic Charities: Bob Gilligan, is the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which controls the Catholic Charities' offices in Rockford, Peoria, Joliet, Springfield and Belleville, IL. He told the Chicago Tribune that Catholic Charities does not intend to end discrimination against gay and lesbian foster parents. He said:

"We think we're a good partner with the state. If they see we are not, we will sit down and talk with them and we will continue to try providing these services as long as we can. We're not going to violate our religious teachings."

Dependending on the outcome of the state investigation and perhaps some future lawsuits, Catholic Charities may be forced to close their five offices and transfer their case load to secular and non-discriminating faith-based agencies. This has already happened in Washington, DC and Boston, MA. Catholic Charities closed down their offices in these areas after same-sex marriage was approved in the political jurisdictions.

For Lutheran Child and Family Services: At the moment, their policies follow the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod policy of 2006 stated above. It prohibits the agency from "developing or licensing foster care families who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning."

The Chicago Tribune reports that:

"Barbara Below, assistant to the president of the Missouri Synod Lutheran denomination, said she does not foresee the Missouri Synod cutting ties with Lutheran Child and Family Services if it relaxes the policy and places children in gay households."

" ' These gray areas are one of the most difficult places for anyone in the church to work because it's hard to see your way through it,' she said. 'We do have an obligation as a church body to help them through this and help them sort it out and find a solution that is mutually acceptable.' "

Missouri Synod church officials indicted that, if necessary, the LCFS would probably alter its policy to abide by state law.

Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive officer of LCFS said:

"We're trying to develop our strategies for how we respond to this situation. There's no way we're going to jeopardize those programs." 2

For Evangelical Child and Family Agency: The agency's website does not appear to have any information relating to adoption by same-sex parents. Even a search for "gay" and "homosexual" turned up blank. We have posted a question on their "About Us" page asking whether they have a policy in place in the event that the government threatens to kill their funding if they refuse to consider same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents. We did not expect a reply, and did not receive one.

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Bill SB 1123 introduced to legalize discrimination by faith-based agencies against same-sex parents:

WGN radio added the following posting to their website on 2011-APR-12:

"Gay adoptions emerged Tuesday [APR-12] at the center of a Capitol culture clash as lawmakers pushed a measure to ensure faith-based groups could turn away committed same-sex couples who want to adopt children or provide foster homes.

Opponents say it's a direct assault on Illinois' new civil union law, which takes effect [2011-]June 1. And some fear children will lose opportunities to be placed in loving homes because of discrimination.

'Who will be our next target?' said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, one of two openly gay lawmakers in the General Assembly.

Sponsoring senators argue religious groups shouldn't have to go against their beliefs when placing children for adoption. And they say it simply clarifies legally what those groups have been doing for years.

'They have a right of conscience here. They're not going to place a child with an unmarried couple,' said William Haine (D-Alton). 'It's either that or they're driven out of the adoption business, which (would be) a terrible loss to the children of the state'." 3

In a radical reversal of tradition, the bill was sponsored by a Democrat -- Senator David Koehler. It would have amended the state's recently passed civil unions law to allow religiously-based child welfare agencies to "decline an adoption or foster family home application" to any couple in a civil union if "acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization's sincerely held religious beliefs."

He was one of the sponsors of the civil unions bill and had earlier reached an understanding with other legislators that it would not "force groups to work against their beliefs." Apparently, he felt that he must honor that committment to allow faith-based groups to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Ben Wolf, a foster care attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois was concerned about the possible reach of the proposed bill. It might violate a couple's equal protection rights under the federal Constitution as well as a federal court ruling that orders child placement decisions to be made in the best interests of the child. He said that the bill could prevent a child from being placed with a "loving aunt, grandmother or grandfather" because of the latter's sexual orientation.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois supported the bill. However, he wondered: "... how many gay couples would want to go to an organization that didn't honor their lifestyle choices in the first place."

There are more than 50 adoption agencies in the state. Only the Catholic, Lutheran and evangelical agencies discriminate against same-sex couples. 3

Webmaster's note: Gilligan's comment about sexual orientation being a "lifestyle choice" may appear curious, given the almost complete consensus of mental health professionals, human sexuality researchers, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, etc. that a person's orientation is discovered, not chosen, and that heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual orientations are not a "lifestyle." However, many religious conservatives refer to sexual orientation as a choice, presumably because that belief supports the concept that a lesbians and gays can change their orientation at any time -- a belief widely held among religious and social conservatives.

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This topic continues in Part 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "How state funding cuts could hurt religious family agencies," graphic, Chicago Tribune, 2011-MAR-01, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  2. "State probes religious foster care agencies over discrimination" Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical groups get public funds yet reject gay parents," Chicago Tribune, 2011-MAR-02, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  3. Ray Long, "Illinois lawmakers spar over gay adoptions. Bill would allow religious agencies to turn away same-sex couples," WGN Radio, 2011-APR-12, at: http://www.wgnradio.com/

Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2011-AUG-19
Latest update: 2012-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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