Adoption agency should be able
to reject gay couples, Trump
administration arguesNBC NewsClick here for the original article.The
Justice Department filed a Supreme Court
brief in support of a
group that refuses to work with same-sex
prospective parents.President Donald Trump listens during a
meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House
on May 18, 2020. Evan Vucci / APJune 4, 2020, 1:50 PM CDT
By Julie Moreau
The Trump administration submitted a brief
to the Supreme Court on Wednesday arguing that a taxpayer-funded
organization should be able to refuse to work with same-sex couples and
others whom the group considers to be in violation of its religious
The brief was filed by the Department of Justice in the
case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which centers on the refusal of
Catholic Social Services, a religious nonprofit that operates a child
welfare agency in Philadelphia, to place adoptive and foster children
with same-sex couples in violation of the city’s nondiscrimination
In its brief, the government argued that
“Philadelphia has impermissibly discriminated against religious
exercise,” and that the city’s actions “reflect unconstitutional
hostility toward Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs.”
The latter argument cites a recent Supreme Court case in which the government intervened
on behalf of baker Jack Phillips who refused to bake a wedding cake for
a gay couple due to his religious beliefs. The high court awarded a narrow victory to Phillips on the grounds that the Colorado Human Rights Commission had shown hostility toward his religious views.
Social Services sued Philadelphia in 2018 after the city ended its
contract with the faith-based service provider upon learning the
organization would not consider same-sex couples as potential parents
for foster children. The organization argued that to provide these
services to gay couples violated its constitutional rights to free
religious exercise and free speech.
Catholic Social Services
lost the case in district court and subsequently appealed to the 3rd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling in April 2019. Attorneys for the organization then appealed to the Supreme Court in February.
relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will weigh in on faith-based
adoption and foster care,” Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty, which is representing Catholic Social Services,
said in February. “Over the last few years, agencies have been closing
their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring
into the system.”
Civil rights advocates, however, warned of the far-reaching consequences of ruling for Catholic Social Services.
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,” Leslie
Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, told NBC
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice has not shied away
from weighing in on LGBTQ rights cases at the Supreme Court. In
addition to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the department also submitted a brief
on behalf of a funeral home accused of firing an employee, Aimee
Stephens, when she came out as transgender. The high court’s ruling in
that case could come down any time.
In January 2019, the administration granted a waiver
to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina, allowing it to deny
services to same-sex or non-Christian couples and continue as a
state-supported foster care agency.
Eleven states have laws that allow state-licensed agencies to claim religious exemptions in the foster care and adoption process, and others are considering similar measures.
advocates say these laws and policies only worsen the problem of a lack
of available foster families. There were about 443,000 children in
foster care across the United States in 2017, according to a Department
of Health and Human Services report published that year. Each year,
around 50,000 children are adopted through the child welfare system,
but about 20,000 others “age out” before being placed with an adoptive
family, the department reports.
Studies show LGBTQ families foster and adopt at higher rates
and are more likely to take in older, special needs and minority
children. Over 21 percent of gay couples are raising adopted children,
compared with 3 percent of straight couples, and nearly 3 percent of
gay couples have foster children, compared with 0.4 percent of straight
couples, according to a 2018 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law.
government provides critical social services to people in need,
including through partnerships with private secular and religious
organizations,” Cooper said. “Discrimination has no place there.”
The Supreme Court will hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia during its next term, which begins in October.