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Catholic Charities Sue For Right To Turn Away Same-Sex Couples

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Several Catholic Charities groups are suing the state, saying they should not have to accept same-sex couples in civil unions as foster parents.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's Nancy Harty and Alex Degman report, Catholic Charities in Springfield, Peoria and Joliet have suspended new foster care or adoption licenses while the courts handle the case.

"What Catholic Charities has done is hit pause on intake of new families, so new prospective foster parents, and that number is about five or so per month; a little over one a week," said attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, who is representing Catholic Charities.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Nancy Harty reports


They are taking issue with the civil unions law, which went into effect at the beginning of the month. The law grants domestic partnerships with many of the same benefits of marriage to both gay and straight couples.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office says Catholic Charities, as a taxpayer funded entity, must abide by the state's definition of a legally recognized couple.

But Breen disagrees. He says Catholic Charities provides adoption and foster care services to married couples and civil unions don't count as marriage.

"Catholic Charities does not make child placements with unmarried couples, same sex or opposite sex," he said.

Breen says the agency operates under Catholic teachings, which state marriage is defined as between one man and one woman.

"That is what Catholic Charities has held to and done its charitable work based on," says Breen. "So whether there's a civil union law, or any other type of domestic partnership law, Catholic Charities practice shouldn't have to change because of that."

Three attempts to pass legislation restrict adoption by same-sex couples have failed.

The most recent attempt was last month, when state Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) attempted to amend an ethics bill by inserting language that would allow adoption agencies affiliated with religious groups to turn away same-sex couples, Gay Chicago Magazine reported.

The amendment was tabled, and the ethics bill passed without it.

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