Measure would let some groups deny same-sex adoptions

April 13, 2011 4:32:57 AM PDT
Under a proposed measure, adoption could get more difficult for couples whose lifestyle is not accepted by religious child welfare agencies.

The move in the Illinois State Senate aims to amend the civil unions law that was passed earlier this year.

The civil unions law goes into effect in a month and a half, but some activists say that before the ink is even dry on that new law, some lawmakers are trying to water it down - pushing to pass an amendment that could make it more difficult for couples in civil unions to adopt children.

Lee and David Neubeckers adopted their two children three years ago. The couple got married in California, and they are excited that the new Illinois law granting civil unions is going to help secure their rights in this state.

The law goes into effect on June 1st, but already, civil rights advocates say some lawmakers are trying to kill the progress they have made.

"We're basically looking at a bill that would write discrimination into state law, and that's never, never OK," said Anthony Martinez of The Civil Rights Agenda.

Martinez plans to be in Springfield Wednesday to lobby against the measure. The amendment would allow adoption agencies associated with religious organizations to deny adoptions to same-sex or unmarried couples.

A co-sponsor of the bill says that without it, the state could lose the services of several vital religious-based adoption agencies.

"They do thousands of adoptions every year in Illinois," said State Sen. William Haine (D-56th). "Without this, they would be driven out of doing adoptions because they're not going to change their religious beliefs."

If the bill is approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Pat Quinn, religious agencies instead would refer couples in civil unions to other non-religious agencies.

"This legislation does not impact the right of homosexual couples to adopt or to become foster parents," said Bob Gilligan of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. "They will be able to do that."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, says that because these agencies receive funding from the state, they should be bound by the same rules as everyone else, just like in other states.

"There are a number of other states that have adopted same-sex marriage, that have adopted civil unions, that have adopted domestic partnerships," said Ed Yohnka of Illinois ACLU. "None of them needed this discriminatory carve-out for religious-based institutions."

The state senate's executive committee is expected to take up the amendment Wednesday morning. The measure could come to a vote before the full senate as early as Wednesday afternoon. Some observers predict it will be a close and controversial vote.