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IL Catholic Group Puts Anti-Gay Agenda Before The Needs Of Foster Children

June 01, 2011 6:18 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Today marks the first day that same-sex couples in Illinois are allowed to enter into civil unions and receive certain state legal protections. For countless gay and lesbian couples and their families, it’s a day of celebration and joy.

For the nearly 350 foster children under the care of the Rockford Diocese of the Catholic Church (RCC), however, today is a day of uncertainty and fear.

Last week, RCC announced that, rather than facilitate the placement of foster children in the homes of same-sex couples, it would be halting its state-funded foster care and adoption services altogether. From the Chicago Tribune:

Officials cited a lack of clarity in the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, which does not specify whether religious child welfare agencies must place children with couples in civil unions.

Without a specific provision protecting religious agencies, church officials said, the agency can't risk losing state contracts or facing lawsuits if it turns away gay couples or others in civil unions. State funds make up about half of Catholic Charities of Rockford's $7.5 million operating budget.

Although the RCC claims that it will continue providing private adoption services without state funding, its decision to continue discriminating against same-sex couples significantly reduces its ability to provide critical services to foster children.

More importantly, if other religious groups in Illinois follow RCC’s lead, thousands of foster children and same-sex couples could be denied access to important adoption and foster care services.

So why the outrage over civil unions?

In a statement last Thursday, RCC acting director Frank Vonch explained that the new law would “force” the organization to “participate in activity offensive to the moral teachings of the church.” That “offensive” activity, of course, is allowing foster children to be raised by loving and committed same-sex parents.

In April, Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, stated that he would rather a child be raised by a single parent than a same sex couple. From EWTN News:

“We believe that children are best served by being in the home of a married couple or a single individual,” [Gilligan] explained. “That’s not a radical notion.”

[…]

He added that homes provided by married couples or single, committed individuals “is in the best interest of the child and quite frankly, I think society should recognize that that’s in the best interest of the child.” [emphasis added]

Research has already demonstrated that children raised by single parents tend to be worse off than those raised by two committed parents, even when accounting for factors like poverty and race. Same-sex parents, on the other hand, have been found to be just as capable of raising children as heterosexual parents.

Even if other agencies can pick up the slack left behind by the RCC, the experienced of being reshuffled through the system will put additional stress on already vulnerable foster children. As Rockford’s WREX reported:

Leslie Montoya worked for a year serving children under the Diocese until Thursday morning when she found out she was laid off.

"My first thought was we work so hard for the children to have stability in their lives to have permanency and this is another thing that is going to be removed from their lives. A worker they've been working with several months possibly a few years and that person's just going to disappear."

What’s most outrageous about the RCC’s decision is the extent to which the group and its anti-gay supporters have attempted to depict Catholic adoption agencies as helpless victims.

Vonch called his group’s decision an “unfortunate, but necessary action.” Penny Wiegert, a spokesperson for the Rockford Diocese, claimed that the RCC was “forced” to discontinue its adoption services. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), unsurprisingly, reinforced the group’s faux victimization, asserting that the “failure to provide religious protections will hurt children.”

The RCC isn’t a victim. It consciously chose to put its bigotry ahead of the needs of hundreds of foster children. As Benjamin Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, put it:

"I am very sorry that they would give a greater priority to their commitment to continue discriminating than the health and welfare of Illinois children."

In order to draw attention to their opposition to homosexuality and same-sex civil unions, the RCC is effectively abandoning the hundreds of foster children who could benefit tremendously from the group’s millions of dollars in non-state funding.

This decision has nothing to do with ensuring that vulnerable children are placed with loving, safe, and stable families. It’s about pursuing an extreme agenda, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

Previously:

Rep. Stark: No Federal Funding For States That Restrict Foster Kid Placement On Basis Of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

With New Adoption Bill, Obama Has A Chance To Advance The Debate Over Marriage Equality

Fox Invites Hate Group President Tony Perkins To Continue His Anti-Gay Misinformation Campaign