US Supreme Court takes up a gay parenting case and it could be extremely bad news for LGBT+ people
The US Supreme Court has announced it will decide whether states can deny taxpayer funding to adoption and foster agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples – and the case could have a chilling impact on LGBT+ rights.
The country’s highest court on Monday confirmed it will hear the challenge from Catholic Social Services, a Philadelphia-based care agency, which insists it is entitled to receive taxpayer funding despite banning same-sex parents from fostering children.
The foster care agency faced defeats in lower courts after arguing that the city of Philadelphia violated constitutional religious freedom protections by withdrawing funding over its policy on same-sex couples.
US Supreme Court case could have a devastating impact for LGBT+ rights.
However, the US Supreme Court will now weigh in on the issue.
Activists are fearful that the case, Fulton v City of Philadelphia, has the potential for devastating consequences for LGBT+ rights – as a ruling in favour of the foster agency could strike down a patchwork of state laws protecting LGBT+ couples seeking to adopt.
This is really a nightmare scenario for LGBTQ advocates, who are rightly terrified that the Supreme Court will use this case to invalidate state and local laws that bar adoption and foster agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) February 24, 2020
The make-up of the Supreme Court has changed dramatically since it ruled in favour of equal marriage in 2015, with Donald Trump’s appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch likely shifting the court’s majority against LGBT+ rights.
Rachel Laser of Americans United told PinkNews in a release: “Ensuring children have safe homes with loving families must be the number one priority for foster care agencies.
“That’s why no taxpayer-funded agency should be able to turn away qualified parents because they are the ‘wrong’ religion or LGBTQ.”
Laser added: “Philadelphia officials were right to end discrimination in their foster care system. The Supreme Court should affirm the city’s decision and make clear to all government officials that religious freedom is not a license to discriminate.
“It’s a new low when we see religious freedom being weaponised to harm vulnerable children. Religious freedom, as promised by the Constitution, means that we are all free to practice our religion, or no religion, as we see fit, so long as we don’t harm others.”
In its court filings, Catholic Social Services asserts a constitutional right to use its faith-based criteria to turn away same-sex couples as prospective foster families while providing services for children in Philadelphia’s public foster care system.
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Religious freedom ‘cannot trump’ other people’s rights, ACLU warns.
The American Civil Liberties Union has previously intervened in the case, warning of the potential for a chilling effect on the rights of LGBT+ people.
The ACLU made clear: “When faith-based agencies choose to receive taxpayer dollars to provide public child welfare services, their religious beliefs cannot trump the best interests of the children in their care.”
It said: “Religious liberty is one of our most fundamental freedoms… [but] it does not entitle taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to impose their own religious eligibility criteria on important government programs.
“The city of Philadelphia recognises the need to maximise the number of families available for children in foster care and has every right to insist that the agencies it hires accept all qualified families.
“Nothing in the Constitution puts the religious beliefs of these agencies ahead of the needs of the children in their care.”
It is not the only key LGBT+ rights case before the court, which is also considering whether LGBT+ people are entitled to any protections in employment under the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex.