SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Case Impacting LGBTQ+ Foster and Adoptive Parents

On November 4, the Supreme Court heard initial oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that considers whether taxpayer-funded, private foster care agencies can discriminate against prospective LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents.

History of the Case

According to ACLU, in March 2018, the city of Philadelphia discovered that two of the agencies it hired to provide foster care services to children in the city’s care would not accept same-sex couples as foster parents based on their religious beliefs and objection. Philadelphia informed the agencies that it would no longer refer children to them unless they agreed to comply with nondiscrimination requirements that are part of all foster care agency contracts. While one of the agencies agreed to do so, the other sued the city, claiming the Constitution gives it the right to opt out of the nondiscrimination requirement and refuse LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents..

Information Provided by ACLU:

  • June 8, 2018: The ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the Support Center for Child Advocates, a nonprofit that represents and advocates for children in the foster care system, and Philadelphia Family Pride, a nonprofit membership organization of LGBQ&T people and their families, whose members include same-sex foster parents and prospective foster parents. The motion to intervene argued that Child Advocates and PFP and the people they serve would be harmed by a ruling in favor of CSS, and asked the court to allow them to participate in the litigation as defendants in order to protect their interests. The district court granted that motion to intervene on August 14, 2018.  
  • July 13, 2018: A federal district court denied CSS’s motion for a preliminary injunction and rejected the argument that child welfare agencies have a right to discriminate. 
  • July 16, 2018: CSS asked the Third Circuit to enter an emergency injunction granting the relief denied by the district court.  The Third Circuit denied that motion on July 27, 2018. 
  • July 31, 2018: CSS asked the Supreme Court of the United States to issue an emergency injunction granting the relief denied by both the district court and court of appeals. On August 30, 2018, the Supreme Court denied their motion.
  • April 22, 2019: The Third Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling denying CSS’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
  • February 24, 2020: The United States Supreme Court announced that it has granted cert in the case, meaning that the court will hear arguments in the case in its next term.

Implications of the Case
Ultimately, the case could have a harmful impact on the provision of child welfare services by enabling discrimination against individualsLGBTQ+ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parentsto whom an agency has an objection due to its religious views.

To follow this case, visit ACLU.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

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