Crime & Justice

Catholic Foster Care Agency Can Not Discriminate Against LGBTQ Couples, Court Says


A federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that city contractors must abide by nondiscrimination policies in the placement of foster children with same-sex couples.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city which had ended a foster-care contract with an agency of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That agency, Catholic Social Services, had declined to place foster children in LGBTQ households and sought an injunction that would have forced the city to renew their contract.

The appeals panel said "the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception" from the city's nondiscrimination policy. The agency "has 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 City stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services," concluded Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ambro, writing for the panel.

Attorneys for CSS said the ruling will hurt hundreds of potential foster children and foster parents who were waiting for a placement.

"We're disappointed that the court decided to let the city place politics above the needs of kids and the rights of parents, but we will continue this fight," said Lori Windham, a lawyer for Catholic Social Services as quoted by the Associated Press.

Mayor Jim Kenney praised the ruling.

"Our policy ensures that same-sex couples do not face discrimination as they seek to offer loving homes to Philadelphia children in need of foster care," said Kenney in a statement. "At the same time, the policy safeguards religious liberties. We are proud that Philadelphia is a welcoming, inclusive city that values the diversity of its residents."

The ruling upholds a lower court decision siding with the city and its nondiscrimination policy.

As The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, the dispute is the latest case in which LGBTQ rights and religious freedoms have come into conflict where child welfare is concerned.

"In most of those cases, the child-welfare agencies are facing lawsuits for contracting with groups that discriminate," the Inquirer reports. "Here, the city was being sued for barring an organization it says discriminates."

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