A bill that would amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection & Civil Unions Act to allow religiously based child welfare institutions to decline adoption to couples in a civil union was killed in Springfield Friday by activists from the ACLU of Illinois and The Civil Rights Agenda.
SB2495, which was introduced by Sen. Kyle McCarter (51st District) last October, was met by opposition from LGBT rights groups such as TCRA because it would ultimately allow religious adoption institutions to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples in civil unions. It is one of a handful of similar bills that have been introduced in Springfield since last year.
“This bill has been brought up multiple times over the course of a year and a half in both houses of the General Assembly,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of TCRA. “As a Catholic, I am saddened that Catholic Charities has stepped away from providing these services based solely on discrimination.”
A bill with nearly identical language was introduced in the General Assembly Jan. 20 by downstate Republican Rep. Dwight Kay (112th District). Kay’s bill has not yet been called for a vote.
The senate bill was voted down 2-1 at a Friday morning meeting of the Executive Subcommittee on Civil Rights, which is composed of Democrats Sen. Don Harmon, Sen. Jeffrey M. Schoenberg and Republican Sen. Bill Brady. Harmon, who chairs the committee, had to bring the meeting back to order when Schoenberg and Brady began talking over one another in what became a contentious debate over the issue, according to Martinez.
TCRA filed testimony ahead of the committee vote, detailing “blatant homophobia” in the language of the bill.
“As a private religious organization, Catholic Charities has every right to discriminate against possible foster and adoptive parents, by stating that their religious practices preclude them from placing children in homes with couples who are in a civil union. But, as an agent of the State of Illinois, using public funds, it is against the law to discriminate based on sexual orientation,” read the TCRA testimony.
Currently, under the stat’s civil union law, all benefits afforded to people united in a marriage are also afforded to those who are in a civil union, including the right to adopt. The new law requires that all agencies receiving state funds use one standard for placing children: What is best for the child. Over 15,000 children live in the Illinois Adoption and Foster system, according to TCRA.
“This is only about the Catholic Conference continuing their agenda of bigotry and hate,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for TCRA. “They are only trying to codify in law the ability to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. In the end, as an agent of the state they cannot discriminate, period.”