A federal judge has slapped down a lawsuit from a Christian adoption and fostering group which was censured for discriminating against same-sex couples.
Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services (CSS) – which have received around 3 million in funding from Philadelphia City Council – were had their contracts suspended in March after an investigation revealed they were refusing to place kids with gay people.
Bethany agreed to comply but CSS challenged the decision with a lawsuit, stating that it should receive a religious exemption to the city’s anti-discrimination rules.
US District Judge Petrese Tucker has rejected the agency’s suit, handing down her decision as Republicans in Congress continue to push for an amendment which would allow discrimination against prospective gay parents.
The judge found that CSS had broken both city law and its own contract in refusing to place children with same-sex couples.
She also dismissed the idea that CSS was being made to violate its religious principles by enabling gay people to foster or adopt children.
“The Services Contract does not require CSS to express its religious approval or disapproval of persons seeking out its services,” Tucker wrote in her decision.
“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,” she added.
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The judge also made it clear that CSS’s argument about foster children losing out as a result of the city potentially cancelling its contract with CSS did not hold up.
The city, she wrote, had “offered evidence showing that the closure of CSS’s intake of new referrals has had little or no effect on the operation of Philadelphia’s foster care system.”
CSS has filed a notice of appeal.
This year, Oklahoma and Kansas have both passed laws enabling agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples wanting to adopt or foster children.
In May, Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1140 after it was passed by the state’s House and Senate, meaning that it will come into effect on November 1.
And in the same month, Republican Governor Jeff Colyer did the same for his state of Kansas.
In 2016, a federal judge ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples adopting children was unconstitutional – making same-sex adoption legal in all 50 states.
But many states have tried to find ways around this ruling, mostly through the idea that there should be a religious exception for people and agencies who believe LGB people should not be parents because of their faith.
Nine states – including Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia – have managed to pass a law of this kind, which enables agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.