Illinois Gets Same-Sex Unions, Catholic Charities of Illinois Jumps Ship

6 years ago

Catholic CharitiesToday, Catholic Charities of Rockford, Illinois got out of the adoption and foster care business.

The reason?

Today, same-sex couples in Illinois have the right to enter civil unions -- marriage-like partnerships providing them with many of the rights and responsibilities available to opposite sex couples in the state.

Because they didn’t want to work with same-sex couples, Catholic Charities bowed out of child welfare work altogether.

Catholic Charities has tried to frame this as a religious freedom argument, saying that a religious organization should be exempt from working with same-sex couples if it violates the religious beliefs of that organization.

I agree.

This is why I won’t be asking the Catholic Church across the street to bless my partner’s and my union. If I was straight, and getting married to a man I wouldn’t ask them to do it either, because I’m not Catholic and don’t plan on converting. The Catholic Church has the right to refuse to marry me to anyone -- man or woman -- if I’m not Catholic (or for any other reason based on its religious values). That right has been in place since the First Amendment was written and it is still in place, civil unions or not.

What Catholic Charities doesn’t have the right to do is take my state tax money and use it to discriminate against me for any reason -- religious or otherwise. And that is what they say they are unfairly being prohibited from doing. They claim that not being allowed to use their operating funds -- half of which come from the state government -- to discriminate against state citizens is, er, discrimination.

Double Speak, anyone?

The simple fact is, the violation of religious freedom lies in the state funding a religious organization that uses religious criteria to allocate its services. If Catholic Charities wants to keep the gays out, it is perfectly free to do so -- but according to the Bill of Rights, it must fund that agenda without the help of my Big Gay tax dollars.

The Double Speak doesn’t end here, alas. Catholic Charities has framed this issue in terms of being “forced to serve” gay couples. But in adoption, it is not the prospective parents who are supposed to be “served,” it is the children in need of homes and families.

What Catholic Charities has decided to do, is stop serving children in need because qualified same-sex couples might be among the prospective families eager to serve them, too.

Just as I am not planning to ask the Catholic Church to marry me, I would neither ask it to facilitate my adoption, knowing how the institution feels about same-sex couples and queer singles of all descriptions. I have my doubts that many gay Illinois couples would do so, either, given the many other excellent options we have in this state to build our families through adoption.

But if Catholic Charities wants to take their ball and go home because the gays are on the playground, that’s their business. Just don’t say it’s the gays who put a stop to all the fun.

Meanwhile, if you are a justice-minded prospective adoptive parent, consider asking Lutheran Social Services of Illinois to help you find a child who needs you. They don’t discriminate. Neither does The Cradle, of Evanston, or Adoption-Link of Oak Park. If you have other child-centered, justice-oriented child welfare services you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

As a note: Catholic Charities of Rockford, Illinois was the first to cease all adoptions. Other branches are waiting to decide what to do.


Shannon writes about family at Peter's Cross Station and about writing at Muse of Fire.

Photo Credit: teofilo.

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