CHICAGO (CBS) -- The State of Illinois is moving to steer foster families to new agencies, even as Catholic Charities prepares to fight a court ruling allowing the state to end its relationship with the agency.
As WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports, the state is starting to take foster families from Catholic Charities and put them with new agencies, because the religious organization refuses to follow the state's new civil union law.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports
The civil unions law grants domestic partnerships with many of the same benefits of marriage to both gay and straight couples. But Catholic Charities says it only serves married heterosexual couples who wish to adopt.
After civil unions became law at the beginning of June, Catholic Charities in Springfield, Peoria, Joliet and Belleville sued to forbid enforcement of a law that would forbid them from turning away same-sex couples when placing wards of the state.
Soon afterward, the state decided not to renew its adoption contract with the Catholic Charities, and last month, downstate Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt ruled that the state was within its rights to end its contract.
Some 2,000 of the state's 15,400 foster parents work with Catholic Charities. Some of them – including some who are not Roman Catholic – say they will not remain foster parents if they have to deal with agencies other than Catholic Charities.
"We're the most-needed program in southern Illinois," said Gary Huelsmann, executive director of Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois, a Belleville diocese entity that handles about 630 foster children for the state.
"People do this out of senses of love and care, and they very much want to do it with an agency that has strong Christian values," he said. "We have a tremendous amount of loyalty."
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services contract with Catholic Charities is worth more than $30.6 million.
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