by Iris Waichler, L.C.S.W.
There is legal battle that has been brewing in Illinois that may interest others who live out of state. In July of this year the state of Illinois decided not to renew its $30.6 million foster care and adoption contracts for 2012 with Catholic Charities. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent Catholic Charities a letter explaining why. They determined “your agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” Illinois was responding to policies that Catholic Charities implemented. They refused to license adoptions for gay couples and couples in civil unions. Catholic Charities has been referring these couples to other agencies. Catholic Charities policy is to only work with married couples and “single non-cohabitating individuals.” The state of Illinois views this policy as discriminatory.
The Dioceses of Peoria, Joliet, and Springfield Illinois initially filed suit against the Illinois Attorney General and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for their policies which honor civil unions and their rights to build their families through adoption and foster care. In early October the Peoria diocese dropped their suit and transitioned their caseload to another non faith based organization.
Republican Senator Kyle McCarter filed legislation in October attempting to amend the state’s civil union law so Catholic Charities will become eligible to resume their adoption and foster care licensing services. His Bill, SB2495, for religious based agencies like Catholic Charities, claims the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act in Illinois “would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Lesbian and Gay rights activists in Illinois and elsewhere strongly believe that programs should not be eligible for state funding if discriminatory practices are being instituted.
In the meantime thousands of Adoptive and Foster Care placements have been impacted by this legal battle unless their cases were transferred to other agencies. Many children and the family building dreams of prospective parents eager to open their homes and hearts to start their families are now in legal limbo. Catholic Charities is one of the larger adoption programs in Illinois.
In my opinion, it is difficult to determine that an individual not being allowed to pursue adoption or foster care exclusively because of their sexual orientation is not in fact discriminatory. How can it be perceived any other way? I will be watching the outcome of this suit and legislation carefully along with other Illinois citizens and people in other states. In the meantime in Illinois, many children and prospective loving adoptive and foster parents are being denied the chance to build a life and family together.
Iris Waichler, MSW,LCSW, has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years. She has done workshops, individual, and group counseling with people experiencing infertility. Ms. Waichler is the author of the award winning Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. She currently writes freelance infertility and health related articles.