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Religious Tolerance logo

Adoptions by same-sex couples in Illinois

Part 1: Conflict between same-sex
couples & faith-based adoption agencies

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There are many faith-based agencies across the U.S. actively providing social services to the public. Many are affiliated in some way with a Christian, Jewish or Mulsim denomination or tradition. Within each of these religions there exists an enormous variation of beliefs concerning sexual orientation.

  • Many religious liberals feel that heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual sexual orientations are morally neutral. Many also believe that loving, committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and receive all of the state and federal rights, protections, and privileges for themselves and their children that are automatically given to opposite-sex married couples.

  • Many religious conservatives consider all same-sex behavior to be a major and chosen sin, regardless of the nature of the relationship. Many advocate that same-sex couples be treated only as roommates by social service agencies and governments; their relationships should not be recognized; they should not be allowed to marry or enter into civil unions; they should remain without rights as a couple and without protections for themselves and their children.

  • Many members, congregations and regions in mainline denominations are divided between the above two points of view.

One of these two sets of beliefs will usually be reflected in the policies of a faith-based adoption agency toward loving, committed same-sex couples. If the agency is affiliated with a conservative faith group, it will often discriminate against same-sex couples wishing to adopt a child; if avviliated with a liberal group, it will typically treat all couples alike, whether they be of the same gender or opposite genders.

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The situation in Illinois:

Among the groups involved in foster care in the state of Illinois, there are over 50 agencies; many are faith-based agencies. These agencies act as contractors to administer the state's foster care system. Among their many functions, they decide which adults wishing to adopt a child will be approved and which will be rejected as unsuitable.

Adoptions by same-sex couples have been legal in Illinois since an appellate court ruling in 1995. 1

Three faith-based agencies -- Catholic Charities with five offices in the state; Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS), and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency with one -- oppose all adoptions by loving, committed same-sex parents because of the agency's religious beliefs which typically follow those of the Catholic, Lutheran or evangelical group with which they are affiliated. To handle adoptions and related functions, the three agencies received over $47 million in state funding during 2010, which was derived primarily from taxpayers. 2

These three agencies routinely reject applications from any same sex couple applying to adopt, regardless of their qualifications, parenting skills, nurturing abililties, talents, economic resources, etc. The agencies feel that they have a right to discriminate because of the negative beliefs concerning homosexuality by both the agency and the religious group with which they are affiliated. These beliefs are generally derived from their interpretation of their holy book: typically the Bible, Torah, or Qur'an. They believe that the state, county and city non-discrimination laws all contain exemptions for religious organizations that allow them to freely discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 3

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However, the U.S. Constitution's equal access clause implies that both the Federal and State governments should treat individuals and couples equally. Depending upon interpretation by courts, this could mean that the state of Illinois may be prohibited from funding agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples who wish to adopt.

Thus, these three agencies might be protected from any lawsuits based on their discriminatory policies, if they were financially self-supporting. However, once they accept public money, the courts or state executive branch might rule that they have to obey the federal Constitution and cease discriminating against same-sex couples.

Position of the Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) on adoption by same-sex couples:

The LCFS is one of the three agencies mentioned above. The About LCFS page on its website states that It:

"... traces its roots to 1873 when several Lutheran churches in northern Illinois established the German Evangelical Lutheran Orphan Home in Addison, Ill. Opening its doors that year to six young children, the orphan home grew quickly and expanded its services over the years. Acknowledged by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod." 4

The Lutheran movement in the United States consists of a number of denominations of which the largest by far are the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) -- perhaps the most conservative Lutheran group in the country -- and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- one of the most liberal Christian denominations in the U.S.

In 2004, President Kieschnick of the LCMS asked its Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR):

"What can we as a confessional Lutheran church say about same-sex civil unions? Although these unions are contrary to the will of the Creator, many Christians support legislation offering the legal benefits given to married partners [also] to people of the same sex united in a legally recognized civil union."

The CTCR commented such civil unions are "... immoral and unscriptural." They found: "... compelling reasons against offering legal benefits to 'people of the same sex united in a legally recognized civil union." They ruled that opposition to civil unions was founded: "not solely on the basis of what the Bible says about the sinfulness of homosexual unions, but also on the basis of concerns about the social consequences of such legislation. ..."

Webmaster's note: In contrast with the position of the CTCR, most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual groups (LGBT), religious liberals and secular groups have analyzed the same "clobber" passages in the Bible that refer to same-gender sexual behavior. They typically see condemnations of rape, idolatry, molestation of children, sex with prostitutes, heterosexuals engaging in same-sex behavior against their basic nature, and bestiality. They generally find no reference in the "clobber passages" to loving, committed same-sex relationships.

The CTCR commission stated that their concerns include the undermining of the divine institution of marriage, the granting of rights solely on the basis of sexual orientation or behavior, the adoption of children, and the nature and definition of the family [led by opposite-gender parents] as the foundational unit of society. 5 [Emphasis ours]

In the fall of 2010, a gay couple living in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago attempted to adopt a 15-year-old boy who had been a ward of the state for seven years. They used the services of the Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS), who describe themselves as:

"... a social services agency serving children and families of all faiths, races and ethnic backgrounds." 4

However, they apparently decline to serve families led by parents of all sexual orientations. The agency refused their application.

The controversy arising from this rejection caused the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to discuss the case with the governor's office, the state Attorney General's office, and local LGBT groups. Windy City Times of Chicago wrote on 2011-MAR-09:

"Kendall Marlowe, DCFS spokesman, confirmed to the Windy City Times that conversations are continuing today as part [of] 'an ongoing review of all the related legal issues' in the matter. The review currently has no deadline and could take some time to resolve, he said."

" 'This is not the kind of thing someone can go look up in the book,' Marlowe said."

"Marlowe added [that] the passage of the state's civil-unions legislation -- which officially becomes law on [2011-JUN-01] ... -- has further contributed to an already 'very complex set of interrelated legal issues' concerning the faith-based agencies' denial of foster care licenses to same-sex couples. Private foster care agencies -- many of whom are faith-based, the majority of whom do not bar same-sex couples -- oversee some 80 percent of the state's foster children."

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2010 Civil Unions Bill:

A complicating factor in the Illinois situation is the 2010 civil unions bill that was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn (D) on 2011-JAN-31. It had been passed in the House by a vote of 61 to 52 and in the Senate by 32 to 24. Supporters called the law "... a matter of basic fairness." Opponents condemned it as "... a threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage." 4

The law takes effect on 2011-JUN-01 when loving, committed same-sex couples will be able to enter into a civil union and obtain "... official recognition from the state and [receive] many of the rights that accompany traditional marriage, including the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner's property." However, as long as the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remins in effect, they are denied some 1,100 federal rights, privileges, and protections that are given automatically to opposite-sex couples when the latter marry.

The civil union law was written so that religious institutions could continue to discriminate against same-sex unions by refusing to bless them in a church ritual or service. However, the bill was silent on the matter of same-sex parenting.

Kendall Marlowe of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) said:

"Social intervention such as adoption laws and practices inevitably reflect their communities. Illinois as a state has grown on this [gay rights] issue as evidenced by [civil union legislation]. Adoption law and practice should reflect the values of the people of Illinois." 6

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ray Long, "Illinois lawmakers spar over gay adoptions. Bill would allow religious agencies to turn away same-sex couples," Chicago Tribune, 2011-APR-12, at:
  2. "How state funding cuts could hurt religious family agencies," graphic, Chicago Tribune, 2011-MAR-01, at:
  3. Joseph Erbentraut, "Foster-care agencies that deny gay parents under review," Windy City Times. 2011-MAR-09. at:
  4. "About LCFS," Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois," 2003, at:
  5. James Heine, "CTCR OK's 'Left Behind' study, takes other actions," Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, 2006-MAY-26, at:
  6. "State probes religious foster care agencies over discrimination" Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical groups get public funds yet reject gay parents," Chicago Tribune, 2011-MAR-02, at:

Copyright 2011 & 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2011-AUG-19
Latest update: 2015-MAR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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Go to the previous page, or to the "Same-sex parenting" menu, or to the "SSM & civil unions in Illinois" menu, or to the "Freedom of belief transition" menu, or choose:

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