August 18, 2011 9:04 pm

Summary Judgment in Catholic Charities Case against DCFS

Ben Wolf, Associate Legal Director

August 18, 2011 – Yesterday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt heard arguments in a lawsuit against the State of Illinois filed by several Catholic Charities agencies. The lawsuit sought to reverse a decision by the Department of Children and Family Services to end its contractual relationship with these agencies to provide state-funded foster care and adoption services. The Catholic Charities agencies have refused to provide such services to lesbian and gay male couples, including couples who have a civil union under Illinois’ new laws. In late July, Judge Schmidt approved a request by the ACLU of Illinois to join the lawsuit on behalf of the children in the custody of DCFS and a lesbian couple from Champaign who are interested in adopting in the future.

Today, Judge Schmidt ruled in favor of the State of Illinois, dismissing the lawsuit.

The following can be attributed to Ben Wolf, Associate Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:

“Today’s decision by Judge Schmidt is a good decision for the children under the care of DCFS in Illinois. The primary goal in foster care and adoptive services must be the best interest of the children in need of loving, secure homes. The State has a responsibility and constitutional obligation to assure that all decisions about foster and permanent homes for children are made in the best interest of the child – not other factors including the religious views of the contractual provider. Lesbians and gay men across Illinois daily provide secure, good homes for foster and adoptive children – and have done so for many years. These loving parents must be allowed to participate fully and equally in any program performing the state’s function of licensing and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.”

The following can be attributed to John Knight, LGBT Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:

“Today’s decision by Judge Schmidt moves us closer to the day when all Illinois citizens who wish to serve as foster parents are given that chance, regardless of their sexual orientation. More than twenty-five years of research shows that lesbians and gay men are just as qualified to parent as heterosexuals and just as capable of providing safe, loving homes for children. Every major national organization devoted to children’s health and welfare recognizes that fact, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, and the Child Welfare League of America.

Excluding prospective lesbian and gay parents solely because of their sexual orientation deprives children of loving parents, extends their time waiting for a permanent home, and is unlawful under Illinois law.  The State of Illinois must assure that decisions about foster and adoptive homes for children are based on professional standards about what is best for children and not other irrelevant factors such as the sexual orientation or marital status of the foster parents.

Lesbians and gay men across Illinois daily provide secure, loving homes for foster and adoptive children, including for the large number of foster children with “special needs” – including older children and those with  physical, psychological, or academic problems  – and have done so for many years. To best care for these children, these loving parents must be allowed to participate fully and equally in any program performing the state’s function of licensing and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.

Also, lesbian and gay youth form a large part of the youth in DCFS custody. It’s hard to imagine anything more harmful than the message a policy of discrimination in foster care placement sends them:  Because you are gay, you will never be qualified to parent children. “