SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, USA – The Diocese of Belleville’s Catholic Charities agency has joined three other Illinois Catholic Charities agencies in a lawsuit against the American state.
The charities are seeking to continue operating their foster care and adoption programmes since the passage of a law legalising civil unions for same-sex couples.
The law stipulates same-sex couples have the same rights and benefits as married couples in the state, including the right to adopt and provide foster care.
Officials with the Belleville diocesan agency, called Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, took legal steps on July 26 in Springfield, the state capital, to join the suit filed by the Catholic Charities agencies of the Springfield, Peoria and Joliet dioceses.
The suit seeks to stop efforts by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to prevent Catholic agencies from continued participation in state foster care and adoption programs.
Earlier in July, state officials announced plans to end contracts with the church agencies since they will not place foster children or adopted children with same-sex couples.
Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt issued a preliminary injunction on July 12 preventing the state from ending contracts with Catholic Charities agencies pending the outcome of the suit. The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 17.
The judge also ruled on July 18 that the state’s Department of Children and Family Services must allow Catholic Charities agencies to operate as they had before the fiscal year 2011 contract expired on June 30, meaning the agencies could receive new referrals and continue foster applications.
The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm representing the Catholic agencies, announced on July 26 that the agencies planned to file another complaint against the state for violating their right to due process of law by terminating their rights to contract with the state without any substantive basis.
It also said the agencies were suing the state for not complying with the exemption for religious practice included in the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which took effect on July 1.
The law firm said the agencies want the court to declare they have been and continue to be in compliance with Illinois law in their foster care and adoption practices. They are also seeking a permanent injunction against any further action by Illinois government officials.
The Catholic agencies only place children with married heterosexual couples or single people who are not cohabiting. State officials have said the law would not allow the agencies to refer same-sex couples to other agencies, as they have done for decades. - CNS