The Supreme Court Will Decide If Foster Agencies Can Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

The Supreme Court will hear the case during its next term, which starts in October 2020.

The Supreme Court announced that it will take up a case brought by a Catholic charity against the city of Philadelphia. The charity is suing for the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples who are applying to become foster parents. They allege that it’s a matter of religious freedom, NBC OUT reports.

Catholic Social Services is one of 30 agencies that contract with the city of Philadelphia to help find foster homes for children in need. In 2018, the city learned that the organization refused to consider same-sex couples as potential foster parents. They subsequently ended the contract.

The charity sued the city, claiming that they were being targeted over religious beliefs. They say endorsing same-sex foster parents would violate Catholic teachings about marriage.

Lower courts ruled that the city was simply enforcing its non-discrimination laws, which forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Catholic charity “failed to make a persuasive showing that the city targeted it for its religious beliefs, or is motivated by ill will against its religion, rather than sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the Third Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.

The core issue is whether religious beliefs are grounds for ignoring laws that apply to everyone else. In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that religious groups are not exempt from general local, state, and federal laws. Conservatives have long argued that this ruling violates their religious freedom.

Now that the Supreme Court is taking up this new case, they could end up overturning the 1990 ruling. The current right-leaning makeup of the Supreme Court has civil rights advocates concerned. If the court rules in favor of the Catholic charity, countless service providers could legally refuse gay couples due to their religious beliefs — as many have attempted to do already.

The Supreme Court will hear the case during its next term, which starts in October 2020.


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