Thursday, June 2, 2011
There have been occasional scholarly calls to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a condition for receiving federal tax benefits. For example, Nicholas Mirkay (Widener) has written extensively on this topic (Losing Our Religion, 17 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 715 (2009); Is it 'Charitable' to Discriminate?, 2007 Wisc. L. Rev. 45), while Shannon Weeks McCormack (UC Davis) has written more generally about not subsidizing organizations that generate significant negative externalities, including by having exclusionary practices such as ones based on sexual orientation (Taking the Good With the Bad, 52 Ariz. L. Rev. 977 (2010)). Whatever the merits of these arguments, there appears to be little political traction for such changes.
What has gained political traction, however, is tying more direct government financial support to not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The most recent example of such a condition is in Illinois, where the Huffington Post reports that Catholic Charities of Rockford, Illinois has stopped providing foster care services because a new state law would have required it, as a recipient of state money, to treat people in civil unions as it would treat married couples. The Rockford Diocese announced the decision at a press conference last week, noting that approximately 350 children would be immediately affected. According to the Huffington Post article, if Catholic Charities statewide followed suit another entity would need to be identified to handle approximately 2,500 foster care cases annually. For a helpful summary of similar decisions by Catholic Charities in other states and recent scholarship for and against religious exemptions in this context, see this Concurring Opinions post by Courtney Joslin (UC Davis).
Additional Coverage: Chicago Tribune.