Opponents of equality allege that legal recognition of same-sex couples infringes on their religious beliefs because it would force religious adoption agencies to shut their doors and prevent foster children from finding new homes. When civil unions became law in Illinois this summer, several dioceses filed suit to maintain their state contracts for adoption and foster care services despite their unwillingness to place children with same-sex couples. A judge has ruled the state is not bound to maintain the contracts, but the dioceses have appealed. Now, though, the Peoria diocese is doing the right thing: dropping out of the suit and relinquishing their cases to a secular organization that can abide by the law:
No longer able to provide publicly funded foster care and adoption services unless it complies with Illinois law, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria announced Thursday that it will withdraw from all state contracts and transfer its staff and caseload to a new nonprofit organization with no affiliation to the Roman Catholic Church. Run by a five-person community board, the Center for Youth and Family Solutions will take on the entire caseload of foster children from Peoria Catholic Charities starting Feb. 1.
John Culhane at The New Civil Rights Movement has dubbed this approach “The Peoria Solution,” and rightfully so, as it is one other groups should recognize as appropriate pursue. The key flaw in equality opponents’ argument is that the law does not force groups like Catholic Charities to shut down as they claim. In fact, the organizations could continue to operate and discriminate against same-sex couples in accordance with their beliefs if they simply relinquish their state funding. What they are suing for is state subsidization of their discrimination against same-sex couples, which they simply aren’t entitled to regardless of their religious beliefs.
Hemant Mehta at the Friendly Atheist points out that secular student groups in Illinois have been doing fundraising to support the work of adoption agencies. Rather than creating divisions along religious lines, groups should follow Peoria’s lead and unite over what is in the best interest of children.