Supreme Court Takes Major Adoption Case Pitting Religious Liberty, LGBT Rights

Michael Foust | Contributor | Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Supreme Court Takes Major Adoption Case Pitting Religious Liberty, LGBT Rights

Supreme Court Takes Major Adoption Case Pitting Religious Liberty, LGBT Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a major religious liberty case that could resolve the conflict between governments and faith-based adoption agencies that won’t place children in same-sex homes due to religious beliefs. 

The case involves the city of Philadelphia, which severed its foster care contract with Catholic Social Services because the charity declined to place children in homes with same-sex couples – an action the city said violated its nondiscrimination policy. 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sued the city, claiming the policy violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Becket is representing Catholic Social Services (CSS) and two foster moms who fostered children through CSS.

The case, Fulton v. Philadelphia, could have a major impact on similar conflicts nationwide. Becket lost at the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals before asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

The high court has not set a date for oral arguments. 

“Over the last few years, agencies have been closing their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring into the system,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “We are confident that the court will realize that the best solution is the one that has worked in Philadelphia for a century – all hands on deck for foster kids.” 

Philadelphia city solicitor Marcel S. Pratt said in a statement Monday that CSS “refused to consider qualified same-sex couples to become foster parents – even when these couples would be a safe, loving family for the child – and in doing so, CSS defied the city’s nondiscrimination policy.”

Becket, though, argues the city’s action decreases the chances of foster children finding homes. Foster mom Toni Simms-Busch – a plaintiff in the case – said in a press release she doubts she “could have gone through this process without an agency that shares my core beliefs and cares for my children accordingly.” 

“We are so grateful that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear our case and sort out the mess that Philadelphia has created for so many vulnerable foster children,” she said.

Becket argued in its petition to the Supreme Court that Catholic Social Services “cannot provide written endorsements for same-sex couples” because it contradicts its “religious teachings on marriage.”

“The City’s actions are a direct and open violation of the First Amendment,” the petition said. 

The First Amendment “provides real protection for religious charities serving those in need,” the petition said. 

“Here and in cities across the country, religious foster and adoption agencies have repeatedly been forced to close their doors, and many more are under threat,” Becket argued in its petition. “These questions are unavoidable, they raise issues of great consequence for children and families nationwide, and the problem will only continue to grow until these questions are resolved by this Court.”


Foster Moms Petition U.S. Supreme Court Over City's Ban on Faith-Based Foster Care Agencies Because of LGBTQ Views

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Brian P Irwin

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Supreme Court Takes Major Adoption Case Pitting Religious Liberty, LGBT Rights