Federal Judge Rules Philadelphia Adoption Agencies Cannot Discriminate Against Same-Sex Parents

In May, the City of Philadelphia announced that it was suspending foster care placements at Catholic Social Services (CSS) and Bethany Christian Services after reports showed that the agencies refused to place children with same-sex couples. Doing so was in violation of the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance. While Bethany agreed to comply with the law, CSS sued to city and argued that it should be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker rejected CSS’s arguments and found that its discriminatory practices did indeed violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance which were specifically included in CSS’s contact with Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS). CSS had admitted to two types of discrimination. It would not certify same-sex couples as prospective foster parents, and it also refused to conduct home studies for same-sex couples applying to be adoptive parents. Thus, not only was CSS violating city law, but also the terms of its contract with DHS.

“The Services Contract does not require CSS to express its religious approval or disapproval of persons seeking out its services,” Tucker wrote. “In essence, if CSS provides its services consistent with the minimal requirements of the all-comers provisions of the Fair Practices Ordinance, then CSS may continue to provide foster care to children. This does not constitute a substantial burden on CSS’s religious exercise of providing foster care to children.”

The plaintiffs have already filed a notice of appeal.

See Fulton v. City of Philadelphia on Justia.

Additional Reading

Federal judge rules adoption agency can’t ban gays & lesbians, LGBTQ Nation July 16, 2018

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