Several Catholic groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, advocating discrimination against same-gender married couples by faith-based adoption and foster care providers in Philadelphia. The U.S. federal government has filed a separate brief in support of allowing religious groups to discriminate, too.
Led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), several Catholic organizations filed an amicus brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, arguing that Philadelphia’s civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity violates the religious freedom of an archdiocesan agency, Catholic Social Services’s (CSS), as reported by Crux:
“The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and a few Catholic Charities agencies have joined more than 30 other religious groups, states and a group of Congress members urging the Supreme Court to protect Philadelphia’s faith-based foster care.”
Because CSS does not recognize same-gender marriage under Catholic doctrine, same-gender couples are considered unmarried and are therefore barred from adopting or fostering children. Philadelphia found CSS’ discriminatory policy in violation of its civil rights ordinance. Bondings 2.0 previously reported that the adoption agency challenged Philadelphia’s LGBTQ discrimination protections when the city terminated its adoption and foster care services contract with CSS in 2018.
According to The Advocate, the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Trump Administration also filed an amicus brief advocating a similar point of view. The government’s brief argued that Philadelphia’s non-discrimination policy demonstrated a “hostility to religion” because secular exemptions for racial preference, for example, can be considered, while religious exemptions are denied.
The government’s amicus brief argues:
“Denying an exception here produces the very outcome that Philadelphia ostensibly seeks to avoid — it excludes foster families affiliated with Catholic Social Services not because of the best interests of the child, but because of the City’s disagreement with this religious organization’s view of same-sex marriage.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia in October 2020.
CSS’ lawsuit did not prevail at the district court or appellate level, as both courts concluded that Philadelphia’s application of its civil rights ordinance barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was legally permissible. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the case involving Catholic Social Services in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, click here.
In support of LGBTQ families and Philadelphia’s foster care system, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has intervened, criticizing the U.S. Department of Justice. Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project offered the following commentary, per Metro Weekly:
“The Trump administration submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on the side of a taxpayer-funded agency that is seeking a constitutional right to turn away people who fail to meet the agency’s religious criteria…While this case involves rejecting LGBTQ families, if the Court accepts the claims made in this case, not only will this hurt children in foster care by reducing the number of families to care for them, but anyone who depends on a wide range of government services will be at risk of discrimination based on their sexual orientation, religion or any other characteristic that fails a provider’s religious litmus test.”
Cooper’s nuanced reflections demonstrate the profoundly negative ramifications of this U.S. Supreme Court case. If CSS prevails, other religious organizations contracted with government agencies to provide social services would legally be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the basis of who they are and who they love. The door to legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community would be further widened, for example, in Catholic hospitals, Catholic homeless shelters, and Catholic housing placements receiving taxpayer funds. Were this to happen, Catholic organizations would be violating their rule of charity and be unrecognizable as church institutions.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, June 15, 2020