Illinois Catholic Charities Adoption Battle: Judge Rules Against Church, Another Appeal Ahead

Catholic Charities has lost another round in the ongoing battle over adoption and foster care contracts being granted to same-sex couples in civil unions, a Sangamon County judge ruled Monday.

Circuit Judge John Schmidt on Monday denied Catholic Charities' request for a stay in his previous ruling that the state Department of Children and Family Services can legally cut their ties with the agencies over their refusal to license same-sex adoptive and foster parents, according to the State Journal-Register. Judge Schmidt also refused to reconsider his decision, which concerns agencies in Peoria, Belleville, Springfield and Joliet.

The Thomas More Society, the law firm representing Catholic Charities, has argued that the agencies have a property interest in the contracts -- which are worth more than $30.6 million in state funding, or roughly half of their revenue. The firm plans to immediately appeal Judge Schmidt's decision and seek a stay from the state's 4th District Appellate Court, allowing them to continue their foster care and adoption operations as the battle wages on.

Harvey Grossman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, agreed with Schmidt's ruling. He, and other attorneys defending the state, have argued that Catholic Charities' denial of placements with both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in civil unions violates the state's civil union and anti-discrimination laws.

"They (Catholic Charities) do not have the right to impose religious values on those who are wards of the state," Grossman told the State Journal-Register.

Catholic Charities originally filed suit against the state of Illinois over the foster care contracts in June. Several Catholic leaders in the state have spoken out on the issue, as Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said "the political establishment in the state of Illinois are now basically at war with the Catholic community and seem to be destroying their institutions" last month. Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki added that Judge Schmidt's previous decision marked "a sad day for the children of Illinois."

Meanwhile, the state has already begun transitioning Catholic Charities' 2,000 foster care and adoption cases to other agencies. DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said he expected the process to be complete by the fall. He did not directly respond to Charities' contention that many families working with them would not want to continue working with another agency.

"We can transition those 2,000 cases to other agencies," Marlowe said. "The notion (Catholic Charities) is promoting that somehow they're indispensable and no one can fill the void just is not the case."