The Supreme Court Says it Won’t Get Involved in a Case About a Foster-Care Agency Rejecting Gay Parents

This week the Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving a foster-care agency that refuses to place children with gay couples.

In March, Catholic Social Services (CSS) ran afoul of Philadelphia’s civil liberties laws when the city realized it was only placing kids with heterosexuals and stopped referring cases to the agency. CSS insists the measure violates its religious freedom, but a district court disagreed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit then rejected CSS’ petition to keep placing children while Fulton v. City of Philadelphia worked through the courts.

So CSS turned to the highest court for relief, but the Supreme Court declined to get involved. According to The Washington Post, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch all indicated they would have granted CSS’ request, but such a stay requires five votes.

supreme court declined case

In its petition, CSS warned it woill have to cease operations if forced to comply with the law.

“The city of Philadelphia’s vindictive conduct will lead to displaced children, empty homes, and the closure of a 100-year-old religious ministry. Emergency relief is necessary to prevent this harm.”

In its own brief, the city insisted CSS was trying to argue it had “a constitutional right to apply for a contract paid for by government funds, and then unilaterally rewrite the contract.”

“No one is compelling CSS to apply for these city-funded contracts in the first place, and CSS can always simply choose not to participate.”

There are approximately 250 children in Philadelphia waiting for referrals to foster families. CSS maintained same-sex couples looking to foster could just go to other agencies that contract with the city. “The city is closing Catholic’s foster care program over a hypothetical question: if a same-sex couple approached a Catholic agency seeking a written opinion on their family relationships, could the Catholic Church endorse their unions in writing?”

supreme court declined

Last week, Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced it was phasing out adoption and foster services to avoid having to place children with gay parents, as mandated by New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act.

A same-sex couple had recently filled out an application to foster or adopt, but Catholic Charities CEO Dennis Walczyk said, “If we were to deliver those services, it would be in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church,”

“The contract we have with the county and also regulated by the state says we cannot discriminate based on many factors, including marital status,” he added. “We are a Catholic organization so we have to do what’s consistent with the teachings of the church.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he was disappointed in Walczyk’s decision, which he claimed “contravenes past teachings from Pope Francis regarding how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals should be welcomed by the Church.”

The issue of adoption discrimination isn’t going anywhere, as Fulton v. City of Philadelphia could still come before the Supreme Court on its merits.

Next week, the Senate will begin confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump‘s pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh served as White House staff secretary under George W. Bush, but Republicans have blocked access to documents that could potentially reveal his role in attacks on LGBTQ Americans.

As a judge, Kavanaugh ruled that an employer’s religious beliefs can determine whether employees can access birth control.

Is the fact that the Supreme Court declined to intervene in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia good or bad news for LGBTQ rights at the high court?

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