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Catholic adoption groups want to be able to refuse gay and lesbian parents

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

SPRINGFIELD — Catholic adoption and foster-care agencies threatened Wednesday to halt their services if the state forces them to place children with gay and lesbian couples, a move that could affect thousands of kids.

The threat represents an attempt to build support for legislation, which stalled in the Senate, to carve out an exemption in the state’s new civil-unions law so churches morally opposed to homosexuality could re-refer gay and lesbian couples to secular adoption and foster-care services.

“This is an expression of a religious practice, and what we want to do is have the discretion in law to place children with married couples and single individuals,” said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

Catholic Charities has more than 3,000 children in their foster and adoption services, which represents 20 percent of all Illinois adoption and foster-care services. The state pays Catholic Charities $30 million annually for its services.

Critics argued the charities are attempting to roll back the civil-unions law that takes effect July 1 and are unfairly discriminating against gays and lesbians.

The chief architect of the civil-unions bill, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), said that law prohibits a faith-based organization from discriminating against a gay or lesbian couple if the charity accepts state money to provide child-care services.

“If you are allowed to turn away someone at your door based on the fact that you don’t like some characteristic of them … I think that goes against the public policy of the state of Illinois,” Harris said.

Gilligan countered that President Obama and other presidents have protected faith-based groups to allow their ideals to guide their child-care policy. A prohibition against that would violate the First Amendment, he said.

Gilligan said his group is pressing to revive the legislation that stalled in the Senate and believes it has the votes to pass that legislative chamber.

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