The Catholic Charities in three different Illinois dioceses are suing for an emergency exemption allowing them to discriminate against same-sex couples in their adoption and foster care services. Civil unions became legal in Illinois this month and two of the three that are suing — Peoria and Joliet — already suspended their services and a fourth, the Rockford diocese, shut down its services all together. At stake is whether the Catholic Charities have a protected right to discriminate because of their religious beliefs, but sexual orientation might not be the only concern.
The lawsuit included as an exhibit a March 8 letter from the Attorney General to the Springfield diocese, the third that is part of the suite. It showed that the AG’s office was already investigating the diocese for a number of forms of discrimination:
The office received notice that Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield-in-Illinois (the “Organization”) discriminates against Illinois citizens based on race, marital states and sexual orientation in its provision of adoption and foster care services. Specifically, we understand that the Organization has requirements for potential foster or adoptive parents that are not required by Illinois law — for example, requirements about religious beliefs —or refuses to provide services to potential foster or adoptive parents in violation of Illinois law — for example, refuses to provide services based on the marital status or sexual orientation of a potential foster or adoptive parent.
The letter goes on to point out that “race, marital status, and sexual orientation” are all protected classes under the Illinois Human Rights Act when it comes to public accommodations. Each Catholic Charities receives large sums of state funds to provide their services. (When Rockford’s services shut down, they reported having to terminate $7.5 million in state contracts.)
Still, the three dioceses suing insist that they are legally justified to refuse child placement to single individuals and same-sex couples, and their defense is to use the children as an ultimatum. Steven Roach, executive director for the Springfield Diocese Charities, thinks: “It’s tragic that there are people who believe unnecessarily disrupting the lives of thousands of vulnerable children is an acceptable outcome in this situation.”
But who is threatening to disrupt services to children? Oh right, Catholic Charities.