On January 30, 2011 the governor of Illinois signed “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” into law, thereby enacting same-sex civil unions that are equal in rights and responsibilities to marriage in the state. While religious organizations who did social service work were specifically exempted from the non-discrimination elements of the law, the State of Illinois moved to cancel more than $30 million dollars worth of contracts with Catholic charities who worked with the state to provide foster care and adoption services because they would not pair children with same-sex couples. The state began sending referrals to other foster care agencies. The Catholic charities challenged the state in court and lost at both the circuit and appellate levels. They ultimately had to drop the case due to a lack of funds to appeal it further up the chain. The lack of state cooperation and funding will virtually ascertain the closure of these adoption agencies, which have more than 90 years of experience in this area.
The lawyer who represented the Catholic charities, Peter Breen of the Thomas Moore Society, commented, “This stands as a stark lesson to the rest of the nation that legislators promising ‘religious protection’ in same sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises.” Indeed.