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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, April 15, 2011 ( – The Illinois Senate voted down a bill this week that would have protected religious adoption agencies from being forced to provide services to homosexual couples in the state’s newly recognized civil unions.

In a close 7-6 vote, with one absent member, the Senate voted down SB 1123.

Prior to the adoption of Illinois’ new civil union law, misleadingly called the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” religious agencies warned that such a law would infringe on the rights of faith-based groups to decline certain services to same-sex couples.

The civil union bill, signed into legislation by Governor Pat Quinn in January and effective June 1, stated, “Nothing in this act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body.”

However, critics pointed out that the carefully worded clause would not actually protect agencies associated with religious groups from continuing to offer their services in accord with their beliefs. SB 1123 was introduced in order to clarify and uphold the freedom of religious agencies.

“This legislation allows Catholic Charities to operate within Church teachings, within the law and always with the best interest of the child at the forefront,” said Robert Gilligan, Executive Director, Catholic Conference of Illinois. 

“Those in civil unions will not be prevented from becoming foster or adoptive parents.  From Catholic Charities, they will be referred to DCFS or to one of the approximately 50 other private child welfare agencies throughout the state,” said Gilligan. “Our agencies serve thousands of abused and neglected children in Illinois and are constantly rated a top performer by DCFS in providing permanency, stable foster homes and protection from further harm.  We simply want to continue.”

However, with SB 1123 voted down, Illinois officials are now considering if religious agencies receiving public funding would be violating anti-discrimination laws by declining to service homosexual couples.

If faith-based agencies are found breaking the law, they will have to choose between changing policies to service same-sex couples or losing state funding.  such agencies include the Lutheran Child and Family Services, Catholic Charities in five regions outside Chicago, and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency, which provide care to thousands of children in Illinois.

“Lawmakers are obviously engaged in this issue,” said Gilligan of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.  “We will continue to seek a resolution that allows Catholic Charities to serve thousands of abused and neglected children in Illinois, and we are hopeful that resolution will be supported moving forward.”