SPRINGFIELD — While LGBT rights advocates continue to make a final push for a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois, a conservative state lawmaker is leading a legislative effort to dismantle adoption protections for gay and lesbian couples in civil unions.
Last month, Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican from suburban Westmont, introduced a bill that would allow child welfare agencies operated by religious institutions to deny adoption applications to couples in civil unions if approving such an application should go against its “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The latest bill, SB2369, is a reincarnation of several previous bills that have been repeatedly considered and ultimately killed since the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act became law in 2011. Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Vandalia) made an almost identical proposal last Spring, but the Senate Executive Subcommittee on Civil Rights voted to kill the bill.
The new measure was assigned to the Senate Executive Committee Tuesday, where it faces a Democratic majority that will likely halt the bill from moving forward, according to Rick Garcia, an LGBT rights activist and director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project at The Civil Rights Agenda.
Garcia contends the bill has “no chance” of winning approval from the committee, which comprises 10 Democrats and five Republicans.
There is also a chance the bill will be pushed to a subcommittee like last year.
“When are they going to stop beating that dead horse?” Garcia said. “This has been coming up for years now.”
Garcia, however, is concerned that LGBT rights proponents may be too focused on marriage equality to combat the anti-gay bill.
“The thing that I’m most concerned about here is that people are focusing on marriage and they may not be focusing on these pieces of legislation,” he said.
Dillard’s proposal would effectively allow religious adoption institutions to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, and would open up the door to further dismantle the civil unions law.
Currently, the state’s civil unions law provides that all benefits afforded to people in a marriage are also afforded to those who are in a civil union — that includes the right to adopt. The 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 foster system, according to TCRA.
The Senate committee has not yet established a date to consider the bill.