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State Decides Not To Renew Adoption Contract With Catholic Charities

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Following a legal dispute over the right to turn away same-sex couples in civil unions, the State of Illinois has decided not to renew adoption and foster care contracts with Catholic Charities.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has elected not to renew the contracts, the Associated Press reported. The move involves about 2,000 children, but state officials say their foster care will not be affected.

The gay rights group the Civil Rights Agenda was pleased by the decision, and said it was not acceptable for a group receiving taxpayer funding to discriminate.

"Not only is Catholic Charities trying to work around the Civil Union law, by not providing services to a certain group of people, they are also trampling all over the Human Rights Act and ignoring constitutional protections," Civil Rights Agenda executive director Anthony Martinez said in a statement quoted by Gay Chicago Magazine. "That is unacceptable, and it is appropriate that the state of Illinois agree that it is unacceptable. Catholic Charities is acting on behalf of the state when they provide these services, and it is guaranteed by the laws of Illinois that when you accept public funds as an agent of the state you must treat those you serve equally, period."

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

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

But attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, representing Catholic Charities disagreed. 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 last month.

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

Catholic Charities in Springfield, Peoria and Joliet have been suing to forbid enforcement of a law that would forbid them from turning away same-sex couples when placing wards of the state. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Springfield.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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