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Court: Catholic Charities can continue its services, for now

Updated: October 31, 2011 1:59PM

Catholic Charities got the temporary court order it wanted Tuesday to continue providing foster care and adoption services until a final decision is made in a legal dispute with the state over the new civil unions law.

Catholic Charities of Joliet is one of three plaintiffs in the case, which also includes Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Peoria and Springfield.

Catholic Charities sought the preliminary injunction, which was issued in Sangamon County Circuit Court, after being notified last week that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services would not renew foster care and adoption contracts with the agencies.

The DCFS letter came in the midst of a legal fight centered on the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which permitted civil unions between gay and unmarried couples but also granted certain freedoms to religious groups with beliefs opposed to such unions.

Catholic Charities wants to continue its past practice of referring gay and unmarried couples to other agencies for foster care and adoption services.

“This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state’s reckless decision to terminate would have caused,” Peter Breen, an attorney representing Catholic Charities, said in a statement issued after the ruling.

The next hearing on the case is Aug. 17.

A DCFS spokesman would only say Tuesday that the agency is reviewing the order. Gov. Pat Quinn and other state officials have said that the decision to terminate the relationship with Catholic Charities was based on the organization’s unwillingness to comply with the new state law.

“Any organization that decides that because of the civil unions law that they won’t participate voluntarily in a program, that’s their choice,” Quinn said Monday.

Catholic Charities previously notified DCFS that it would suspend licensing of new foster care and adoptive parents as of June 1, the date the civil union law took effect.

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