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Illinois Investigates Whether Religious Foster Care Agencies Violate the Civil Union Act

By Nottage and Ward on March 18, 2011

According to The Chicago Tribune, state officials are now looking into whether religious agencies that are given public funding to give foster care parents licenses are violating anti-discrimination laws if they don’t allow parents that are openly gay to apply for a license. In Illinois, any adult who adopts or becomes a foster care provider for a child must attain a foster care license.

The Lutheran Child and Family Services, the Evangelical Child and Family Agency, and the Catholic Charities are under fire. If they are found to be in violation, they will be required to give openly gay foster parents licenses or face losing millions of dollars from the State. This would also disrupt over 3,000 foster children under their supervision. The policies of the Lutheran Child and Family Services prohibit the “developing or licensing foster care families who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning,” as do the other agencies.

Earlier this year, Illinois legislators championed the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” which stated religious institutions would not be required to bless unions of same-sex couples. However, the Act does not say anything regarding same-sex parents. Now, the Civil Union Act as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Constitution are being carefully researched by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Governor Pat Quinn, and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). These officials will conclude whether they will disallow agencies from taking sexual orientation into account in foster care and adoption.

A spokesperson for DCFS supports giving openly gay parents a foster care license, stating, “Social intervention such as adoption laws and practices inevitably reflect their communities. Illinois as a state has grown on this (gay rights) issue as evidenced by (civil union legislation). Adoption law and practice should reflect the values of the people of Illinois.”

When the Civil Union Act was passed, the full reach of its provisions were not clear. As this issue demonstrates, the Act will likely initiate progress on many fronts, beyond its primary goal of creating civil unions in the State. If you are considering entering into a civil union in Illinois, it may be in your best interest to speak with an Illinois civil union lawyer, who can advise you on your legal rights. Contact the attorneys at the reputable law firm of Nottage and Ward to learn more. Call 312-332-2915 today.

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