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Bill Would Let Agencies Deny Adoptions To Same-Sex Couples

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Gay rights advocates are outraged over proposed state legislation that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with couples joined in a civil union.

The proposed amendment is tacked onto state Senate Bill 1123, proposed Feb. 28, which deals with the rights of the blind and physically disabled. The amendment says a child welfare agency that is either faith-based or owned by a religious organization "may decline an adoption or foster family home application… from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization's sincerely held religious beliefs."

The amendment says the agencies are responsible for referring couples they reject to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services so they can find out about other agencies.

Opponents are taking issue with the amendment because the faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funds would be allowed to discriminate.

The battle pits the chief Senate and House sponsors of the civil union law against each other.

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The law's chief Senate sponsor, State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), has been in an unusual position since agreeing to become the civil union law's chief Senate sponsor, as both the parent of a gay and an ordained minister. He said he is merely trying to clean up language in the civil unions law, which takes effect July 1.

But on his Facebook page, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the openly gay lawmaker who sponsored the successful legislation to legitimize same-sex civil unions in Illinois, said the legislation is being "fast-tracked."

Those siding with Harris and the ACLU call it discrimination and say that faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funds should not be be allowed to discriminate.

Harris also shared a fact sheet distributed by the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union, which called the legislation not only discriminatory, but potentially harmful to children.

"Since lesbian and gay male couples are denied the ability to marry and their marriages legally entered elsewhere are treated as civil unions, SB 1123 perpetuates a long history of discrimination towards lesbian and gay couples and reduces the pool of available foster and adoptive homes to children," the fact sheet said.

The fact sheet also said reducing the number of homes where wards of the state can be placed is a violation of their constitutional due process rights.

Harris and other gay rights supporters want voters to contact their state senators to vote against the bill.

The legislation allowing for civil unions in Illinois was signed into law by Gov. Quinn on Jan. 31, after being approved by both houses of the state General Assembly in December. The law will take effect on July 1.

A constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in Illinois was proposed in February. But last week, it was sent last week to the senate Executive Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, which doesn't have any members or scheduled meetings, in what experts say is a common move to sweep away a piece of proposed legislation.

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