A Federal Court Just Ruled Adoption Agencies Can’t Discriminate Against Gay Couples

A Federal Court Just Ruled Adoption Agencies Can’t Discriminate Against Gay Couples

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Republicans are trying to make adoption harder for LGBTQ people by basically allowing religious adoption agencies to deny kids to same-sex couples based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Thankfully, one federal court has just told Catholic Social Services, an anti-LGBT Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia, they have no legal right to discriminate, but it remains to be seen whether this case will set legal precedent elsewhere.

An adoption agency called Catholic Social Services (CSS) initially sued after the city of Philadelphia decided to no longer offer foster care placements through CSS and another religious adoption agency called Bethany Christian Services (BCS). The city ended these placements after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the agencies routinely denied kids to same-sex couples.

Zack Ford with Think Progress reports, that CSS “would not certify same-sex couples as prospective foster parents, even if they were otherwise eligible under state regulations. It also would refuse to conduct a home study for a same-sex couple applying to be adoptive parents.”

But the city’s contract states that all local adoption agencies must abide by the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance which requires businesses to offer its services equally to all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Since CSS and BCS didn’t follow this guideline, the city stopped handling foster care placements with them. (They later resumed working with BCS when BCS stopped discriminating.)

While BCS began abiding by the Fair Practices Ordinance, CSS sued the city instead, stating that the contract violated their rights to free speech and religion. CSS claimed their agency wasn’t a business of “public accommodation” and, thus, didn’t fall under the oversight of the Fair Practices Ordinance.

Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the U.S. District Court in East Pennsylvania disagreed with CSS’ assertions and added that the ordinance places no “substantial burden on CSS’ religious exercise of providing foster care to children.” She also wrote that the ordinance did not target CSS’s religious beliefs since the city requires other religious and non-religious adoption agencies to also follow the ordinance.

CSS plans on appealing Judge Tucker’s ruling. The agency was represented by an anti-LGBTQ Christian law firm called The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Map of same-sex and LGBTQ adoption laws, image via the Movement Advancement Project

Right now, 10 states permit state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ people and same-sex couples on the basis of an agency’s religious beliefs.

Late last week, U.S. House Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a proposed funding bill amendment that would slash federal adoption funding to states requiring religious adoption agencies to work with LGBTQ people and same-sex couples.

RELATED | Connecticut Bucks the Anti-LGBT Trend by Calling for More Queer Families to Adopt

Unnervingly, this means that U.S. tax dollars go towards agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ people and same-sex couples. If the Republicans get their way, those agencies will get extra funding because they can discriminate without being penalized.

What do you think of Judge Tucker’s ruling on the Catholic Social Services adoption agency?


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