Just weeks after Progress Illinois covered the demise of an anti-gay
bill that would effectively allow for religious discrimination against a
prospective parent in adoptions, a reincarnate of that idea emerged in
an unlikely provision of another, unrelated
bill. The newer version -- an amendment in a bill about public accessibility for people with disabilities -- is an even more straight-forward attack on civil rights.
Let’s start at the beginning. SB 1993 called for “faith-based policies or practices” for religious institutions providing adoption services, effectively allowing for religious discrimination against a prospective parent. Thanks to the hard work of civil rights groups like the ACLU, that bill was struck down in the Senate Human Services Committee in March.
The bill now in question is SB 1123, something Think Progress called “a simple two-page affirmation of public accessibility for people with physical disabilities like visual impairment.” A new provision that was introduced by state Sen. David Koehler (D-Pekin), though, comes as a 30-page amendment that lays out county clerks charges -- included are fees for civil union filings. All the way at the bottom of the amendment, labeled as Section 65, drops this bomb: “A child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization may decline an adoption or foster family home application, including any related licensure and placement, from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
And the kicker: Koehler was a strong champion of the civil unions bill; he even invoked his lesbian daughter during the debates. Koehler told WBEZ that when whipping votes for the civil union legislation, he vowed to protect religious groups. "No group should have to go against what its religious principles were and that included organizations that were involved in adoption," he told the radio station.
UPDATE: In a statement, Koehler said he was proud to have passed the civil unions law, but, citing the law’s built-in protection for the rights of religious groups that oppose homosexuality, said such groups aren’t required to participate in civil unions ceremonies. In his statement, Koehler called this bill a “compromise,” adding, “Though I know some people will find it objectionable, I feel I must keep my promise.” His statement also says groups who deny services to civil union couples must give them contact information to the Department of Children and Family Services so that they can find an agency that will serve them.
UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): Capitol Fax reports the bill was defeated in the Senate Executive Committee.