When Equality Isn’t Enough

At the end of 2011, Catholic Charities in Illinois stopped providing adoption services after more than 40 years:

[M]ost of the Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois are closing down rather than comply with a new requirement that says they can no longer receive state money if they turn away same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,’’ said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

Prior to that, in March 2006, Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese stopped providing adoption services so they would not have to comply with a Massachusetts law requiring they not discriminate against gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt:

That same day Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called it “a mistake for our laws to put the rights of adults over the needs of children” and said he would seek legislation allowing religious agencies to perform adoptions without violating their religious tenets.

Now, nearly six years later, Virginia is seeking to introduce such legislation in the form of House Bill No. 189 and Senate Bill No. 349 (Child-placing agencies; conscience clause):

No private child-placing agency shall be required to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would conflict with the religious tenets of any sponsor of the agency or other organization or institution with which the child-placing agency is affiliated or associated. The Commissioner shall not deny an application for an initial license or renewal of a license or revoke the license of a private child-placing agency solely on the grounds that the agency has refused to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption in such cases. Refusal of a private child-placing agency to consider or consent to any placement of a child pursuant to this section shall not form the basis of any claim for damages.

What would become of same-sex couples seeking to become adoptive or foster parents?  Surely the same thing that has been happening all along, as described in Massachusetts in 2006:

Catherine Loeffler, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., said the Boston agency’s decision would not affect her agency’s practices.

If a same-sex couple comes to the Worcester agency seeking to adopt, it will continue to ask the state, which refers the couples, to use another agency for that case, she said.

So on January 24, otherwise known as Lobby Day 2012, Equality Virginia will not be lobbying against legislation that will prevent prospective LGBT parents from being able to adopt or become foster parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia, rather they will be lobbying so that not a single agency that performs such services will be able to turn them away on religious grounds, even if dozens, or hundreds, of other agencies are able to provide such services.

Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, same-sex couple adoption, or even the Catholic Church, take some time between now and Lobby Day (January 24, 2012) to let Virginia know that as long as they maintain a balance of licensed religious and secular adoption and foster care agencies there will never come a time when the demand by same-sex couples will overwhelm the supply of services not exempted by the “conscience clause”.

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