03 December 2010

Civil union bill likely to impede on religious freedom

The Catholic News Service has a story this morning regarding the response from the Bishops of Illinois on the recent passage in both the State House and Senate of same-sex civil unions and Governor Quinn's desire to sign it into law (with my emphases and comments):

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CNS) -- The Catholic Conference of Illinois, which represents the state's bishops on public policy matters, said it regretted passage of a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples.

The legislation, approved by the House Nov. 30 and the Senate Dec. 1, provides spousal rights to same-sex partners in a civil union and grant them legal rights in surrogate decision-making for medical treatment, survivorship, adoptions, and accident and health insurance.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a supporter of the measure [and a Catholic], has said he will sign it into law.

The Catholic conference said the measure will "explicitly grant these unions the same status as marriage in state law."

"Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. Marriage has been established by our Creator in harmony with the nature of man and woman and with its own essential properties and purpose," the conference said in a statement. "The church did not invent marriage and neither has any state [And, as such, neither the Church nor the State can alter or change marriage].

"No ideology can erase from the human spirit," it continued, "the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, mutually commit to each other in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives."

The conference said that besides essentially redefining marriage, the measure also "contains the potential for a serious conflict with religious liberty," [the fact of which neither the media nor supporters of the bill have made comment] and it urged policymakers to take such concerns seriously and work out "additional conscience protections" in the coming months.

While the bill states that nothing in its wording "should interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body," the conference said that its language "may offer little protection in the context of litigation religious institutions may soon encounter in relation to charitable services, adoption and foster care [as has already happened in other states where same-sex unions have been legalized without necessary protections for conscience].

In an earlier statement, the conference said that without "explicit protections for religious liberties," it expected the General Assembly or the courts will soon [these are all important and series concerns - and all but certain outcomes - to consider]:

-- Require faith-based institutions that provide adoption or foster care services "to place adoptive or foster children with couples who have entered into a same-sex civil union."

-- Compel Catholic parishes or agencies that provide social services (including retreats, religious camps, homeless shelters, senior care centers and community centers) to make those services available to individuals in same-sex civil unions.

-- Refuse "to protect small employers who do not wish to extend family benefits to employees in a same-sex civil union."

During debate on the bill, State Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, told her fellow lawmakers that passing the measure "makes a statement about the justice for which we stand."

But an opponent of the measure, State Sen. Chris Lauzen, a Republican from Aurora, questioned why lawmakers were focusing on civil unions and not spending their time addressing the state's high unemployment, home foreclosures, a big state debt and severe problems with its social services system [I find it curious that on Wednesday the Senate passed this legislation knowing the increased cost it will add to municipal and State budgets, but on Thurdsay passed legislation raising the retirement age and lessening the full pensions of new police and firefighters because of the state of the budget].

The Chicago Tribune quoted Lauzen as saying: "We are the incompetent laughingstock of government mismanagement and misplaced priorities, and our one-party (Democratic) leadership spends our time on homosexual civil unions."

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