An Illinois judge on Thursday reached a verdict in a lawsuit brought by Catholic Charities against the state regarding adoption services for same-sex couples in civil unions, and ruled that the state had the right to discontinue contracting with Catholic Charities.
When Illinois legalized civil unions on June 1 of this year, the Illinois State Department of Children and Family Services informed the adoption and foster care agency, Catholic Charities, that it would not renew its contract, citing the organizations refusal to put children in same-sex households.
Catholic Charities sued the state, asserting that this loss of over $30 million dollars in state funding, would effectively force the agency to shut down its adoption and foster care services.
The crux of the lawsuit, as addressed by Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt, was whether the State of Illinois had the legal right to void its annual contract with Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities, represented by the Thomas More Society – a legal group based out of Chicago – argued that because they had been providing these services for over forty years, and depended upon state funding to do so, they had a ” protected property interest”
Though Catholic Charities argument may seem persuasive to some, Judge Schmidt was not convinced, stating that Catholic Charities does not have a right to a contract with the government, and that “Plaintiffs are not required by the state to perform these useful and beneficial services.”
In fact, Judge Schmidt wrote, “The Plaintiffs’ contract with the State, which is renewable annually, is a desire of the Plaintiffs to perform their mission as directed by their religious beliefs. The fact that the Plaintiffs have contracted with the State to provide foster care and adoption services for over forty years does not vest the Plaintiffs with a protected property interest.”
Ben Wolf, the Associate Legal Director 0f the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, issued a statement praising the ruling, saying that:
Today’s decision by Judge Schmidt is a good decision for the children under the care of DCFS in Illinois. The primary goal in foster care and adoptive services must be the best interest of the children in need of loving, secure homes.
The State has a responsibility and constitutional obligation to assure that all decisions about foster and permanent homes for children are made in the best interest of the child – not other factors including the religious views of the contractual provider.
Lesbians and gay men across Illinois daily provide secure, good homes for foster and adoptive children – and have done so for many years. These loving parents must be allowed to participate fully and equally in any program performing the state’s function of licensing and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.