The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which went into effect on June 1, 2011, grants to same sex couples under state law all the rights of married couples. Passed after much political deliberation, the law was widely hailed as a major step forward for civil liberties in Illinois. On June 7, 2011, Catholic Charities filed a lawsuit, demanding that Illinois allow it to continue to receive public funds in order to run its own programs for foster care and adoption, even though the Church refuses to place children with unmarried gay or heterosexual couples. Catholic Charities has been in business since 1921. The use of state funds helps it care for about 20 percent of foster children in the state of Illinois. In times of financial stress, it is not quite clear who would step up to take Catholic Charities’ place.
The Church initiated the lawsuit after the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to the Catholic Charities Diocese of Springfield on March 8, 2011. The letter insisted that Catholic Charities would no longer be able to participate in the state’s foster care and adoption program so long as its conduct continued to violate the state’s antidiscrimination law by drawing distinctions on the basis of either sexual orientation or marital status.