Washington, D.C. – In a unanimous 9-0 ruling bound to have a long-ranging impact, the U.S. Supreme Court found the City of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment rights to religious freedom of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The Court determined that Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. The eagerly anticipated decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that Philadelphia cannot bar CSS from screening potential foster parents even though the agency refuses to work with same-sex couples, in violation of Philadelphia’s non-discrimination ordinance. Two lower court rulings had previously found in favor of the city.
The importance of Fulton to religious freedom issues was signaled by the volume of opinions written in the case. Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh and Barrett joined Roberts. Justice Barrett filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Kavanaugh joined, and in which Justice Breyer joined in all but the first paragraph. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Thomas and Alito joined. A recent study published in the Supreme Court Review found that the Court has ruled in favor of religious claimants 81 percent since Chief Justice John Roberts’ appointment in 2005. In the 52 years prior, it was closer to 50 percent.
Philadelphia Rep. Brian Sims told PGN, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding Catholic Social Services and their homophobia and discrimination is wrong.” Sims, an attorney, also said, “While it’s incredibly disappointing to see the Court rule in this way, I do take comfort in knowing that this ruling applies narrowly to this case and does not permit discrimination based on religious belief. While the Catholic Church may pretend it has any moral authority regarding the safety of children, Philadelphians, the LGBTQ community, and those who support loving, caring families still know better and will continue to do better.” The Human Rights Campaign chose to take a surprising and what will likely be seen as a controversial point of view on the Court’s ruling, claiming it as an actual win for LGBTQ people. “Though today’s decision is not a complete victory, it does not negate the fact that every qualified family is valid and worthy — children deserve a loving, caring, committed home,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. (Philadelphia Gay News – Victoria A. Brownworth at https://epgn.com/2021/06/17/u-s-supreme-court-rules-against-city-in-foster-parents-case/)
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