Friday, August 19, 2011

Judge rules Catholic Charities has no property right to renewal of contract for adoption and foster care services

An Illinois state trial judge has thrown out the law suit filed by Catholic Charities of Illinois. The state of Illinois refused to renew the agency's contract to provide adoption and foster placement services because Catholic Charities said it would not place children with unmarried couples, including same-sex couples in civil unions. The agency sued.

Normally we think such lawsuits are about some religious freedom claim to discriminate. But in the first instance this suit was about whether Catholic Charities had a right to have its contract renewed. The agency claimed that because it had been renewed for 40 years, the state could not refuse to renew it this time without providing Due Process of law, which would include the right to present their point of view to a neutral decisionmaker.

The trial judge disagreed. He had previously granted an injunction against the contract termination in order to preserve the status quo. The injunction was granted on July 12. He heard argument on Wednesday and ruled yesterday. His short opinion concluded that "no citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government."

Government attorneys argued on behalf of the state, but the ACLU of Illinois represented intervenors -- a lesbian couple wishing to become foster parents and a representative of all foster children in the state. The ACLU memoranda argued that since the state could not discriminate then a state contractor could not discriminate either.

The Thomas More Society, the "pro-life law center" representing Catholic Charities, has not decided what their next step will be.

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