The Supreme Court will soon be deciding on a landmark case that will determine where the law sees the line separating religious liberty from “LGBT rights” when it concerns foster children.
The case is none other than Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.
The case began in March 2018 when the Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia for blocking it from helping children find foster homes because the organization had a policy of not giving children to homosexual couples.
The CSS contested Philadelphia’s refusal to renew its contract with it. The organization argued that refusing to provide foster children to same-sex couples because they are homosexual couples falls within its right to free exercise of religion and free speech, even if there is no other “reason related to their qualifications to care for children,” according to The Oyez Project.
The plaintiffs lost in two lower courts before petitioning the Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case in February last year, Time reported.
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith, Americans cannot claim exemptions to laws on the basis of religion “as long as those laws are neutral and generally applicable to everybody,” the outlet reported.
The Supreme Court decision for Fulton v. Philadelphia—the case to determine whether private agencies that receive taxpayer funding can discriminate against LGBTQ+ people—will be announced soon.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) May 22, 2021
However, according to Time magazine, the plaintiffs in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia argue that Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law is not neutral or equally applicable.
Homosexual marriage was found to be protected by the Constitution in a 2015 Supreme Court ruling. Many religious groups that run child-placement agencies refuse to compromise on religious values and will not place children in foster homes of gay couples, Time reported.
When the city of Philadelphia decided to no longer do business with Catholic Social Services because of that policy, two foster mothers, Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch sued the city, along with CSS, Time reported.
Eleven states have passed laws allowing religious groups to refuse to work with homosexual couples. This, however, has reportedly left those states open to lawsuits filed by civil liberties groups, just as cities and states denying religious groups their right to refuse to send foster children to homosexual couples are open to lawsuits on religious liberty grounds.
Another consideration underlying this case is that the foster care system is overburdened, according to Time.
Lori Windham, the lawyer representing CSS, told Time: “The question is whether Philadelphia can exclude longtime foster moms and the religious agency they partner with because of their religious beliefs.”
Referring to the Catholic Church in Philadelphia’s 200-year-history in working with children who lost their parents, she reportedly said, “We’re talking about trying to take away an important support for foster parents and their children.”
When Time asked her why “CSS should be able to ignore laws that apply to everyone else,” Windham told the outlet that some regulations are “routinely ignored” in other circumstances.
“The city acknowledges that it considers factors like race and disability when it’s making foster care placements, something that’s prohibited by the law,” she told the outlet.
Experts believe that the court would lean towards the plaintiff, considering the court has six “conservative” justices, Time reported.
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