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Supreme Court hears case whether adoption agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ people

OCT. 8, 2019: Rally for LGBTQ rights outside Supreme Court.
OCT. 8, 2019: Rally for LGBTQ rights outside Supreme Court.Photo: Shutterstock

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case brought by a Catholic adoption agency seeking the right to discriminate against potential LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents.

This was the first major case that new Justice Amy Coney Barrett has heard. The far-right anti-LGBTQ Justice’s confirmation tilted the court with a 6-3 conservative bias.

Related: Trump administration gives up legal fight to deny gay couples’ kids U.S. citizenship

Experts listening to the arguments say the Justices indicated that they will side with Catholic Social Services. The majority of members of the court are conservative Catholics.

Two lower courts have rejected CSS’ claims that the city had violated its Constitutional rights.

The group lost their contract with the city after refusing to work with LGBTQ people. The city argued that the organization violated the city’s human rights ordinance and that contractors with the city are required to follow the law.

“We already have a shortage of foster families. Allowing agencies to turn away families for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to care for a child would only make it worse,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project.

“When an organization chooses to accept taxpayer dollars to provide a government service, it doesn’t have a right to pick and choose who it will serve. The stakes, in this case, couldn’t be higher for LGBTQ people, who face the possibility of the Supreme Court creating a constitutional right to discriminate against us in every aspect of our lives. And the court could open the door to discrimination in any taxpayer-funded program.”

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, who argued in front of the court on behalf of transgender plaintiff Aimee Stephens last year in a landmark case that expanded LGBTQ employment nondiscrimination rights, livetweeted the proceedings, providing an insider look at the important questions and responses from attorneys.

The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD notes that “about 424,000 children are in the child welfare system across the U.S. on any given day. Nearly a quarter of them are in group homes because there is no family available to care for them.

“The problem is worsened by policies from the Trump administration which allow government-contracted child welfare agencies to turn away potential foster and adoptive parents because they do not share the agency’s religious beliefs. Child welfare experts say these policies mean more foster children spend more time in group homes as agencies turn away qualified foster parents.

“Research has shown that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. For an agency to refuse to place children with LGBTQ families doesn’t just lower the number of potential homes available to children in the foster care system, it also potentially reduces opportunities for LGBTQ youth to find safe and affirming homes.

“According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, ‘a high percentage of LGBTQ youth in foster care experience further verbal harassment or even physical violence after they are placed in out-of home care’.”

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