The New York Times published an article about Illinois’ struggle with religiously affiliated agencies to ensure gay male and lesbian couples equal access to services funded with state dollars. The ACLU of Illinois intervened in the case of Catholic Charities v. the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) on behalf of foster children who sought to be placed in homes on the basis of their best interest rather than discriminatory factors, and a lesbian couple from Champaign who challenged the discriminatory policy. When the last remaining diocese withdrew from the litigation, they decided to transfer its foster care services to a new, separate entity which will not discriminate in the provision of these services for the state.
In Illinois, Catholic Charities in five of the six state dioceses had grown dependent on foster care contracts, receiving 60 percent to 92 percent of their revenues from the state, according to affidavits by the charities’ directors. (Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago pulled out of foster care services in 2007 because of problems with its insurance provider).
When the contracts came up for renewal in June, the state attorney general along with the legal staff in the governor’s office and the Department of Children and Family Services decided that the religious providers on state contracts would no longer be able to reject same-sex couples, said Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the department.
The Catholic providers offered to refer same-sex couples to other agencies (as they had been doing for same-sex and unmarried couples), but that was not acceptable to the state, Mr. Marlowe said. “Separate but equal was not a sufficient solution on other civil rights issues in the past either,” he said.