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Judge stops state from canceling adoption, foster care contracts over civil unions

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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An Illinois judge on Tuesday granted the state’s Catholic Charities programs a preliminary injunction preventing the state from canceling its adoption and foster care contracts with the agencies.

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt ruled that contracts between the state and Catholic Charities of Joliet, Peoria and Springfield through June 30 would remain intact.

Last week, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said it would not renew foster care and adoption contracts with the agencies because of their refusal to comply with the state’s new civil unions law, which grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples.

Though the contracts had been renewed virtually automatically for years, negotiations seemed to be breaking down, and the state declined to renew the contracts last week. Since March, state officials have been investigating whether religious agencies that receive public funds to license foster care parents are breaking anti-discrimination laws if they turn away openly gay parents.

The judge set Aug. 15 for a full-scale hearing. In the meantime, he said, children in Catholic Charities’ care will not be shifted to other social service agencies because that could risk “irreparable injury.”

Catholic Charities argued the state’s interpretation of the civil union law is discriminatory because it would require placing children with gay or unwed couples.

Catholic Charities wants to continue its past practice of referring gay and unmarried couples to other agencies for foster care and adoption services.

Illinois’ civil unions law requires any charity that accepts state money to provide child-care services to treat people in civil unions as it would treat married couples. The state provides Catholic Charities $30 million annually for its services.

In April, the state Senate voted down a measure that would have allowed religious and faith-based groups to deny same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children.

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