Updated April 13, 2011, 3:44 p.m.: A measure to ensure faith-based groups could turn away committed same-sex couples who want to adopt children or provide foster homes failed in the Illinois Senate.
On Wednesday a Chicago Tribune article discussed the debate surrounding gay adoptions as lawmakers push a measure to ensure faith-based groups could turn away committed same-sex couples who want to adopt or provide foster homes to children.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says it is troubled by the potential for far-reaching impact. The group questioned whether the bill would violate a couple’s equal protection rights under federal law as well as tenets of a sweeping federal consent decree that requires placement decisions in Illinois to be made in the best interest of the child.
Ben Wolf, an ACLU attorney who represents the 15,000 children in foster care in Illinois in federal court, said the legislation could prevent a child from being placed with a “loving aunt, grandmother or grandfather” who would be unacceptable to a private agency because of their sexual orientation.
“That’s just wrong,” Wolf said.
The legislative dispute arises as Illinois officials are investigating whether religious agencies that receive public funds to license foster care and adoptive parents are breaking anti-discrimination laws if they turn away potential parents who are openly gay.
If they are found in violation, Lutheran Child and Family Services, Catholic Charities in five regions outside Chicago, and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency will have to license openly gay foster parents or lose millions of state dollars, potentially disrupting thousands of foster children in their care.
Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services, said the vast majority of private agencies the state contracts with welcome and freely accept prospective foster and adoptive parents regardless of sexual orientation. But the legislation would carve out a niche for those who do not follow that practice, he said.