A federal judge has ruled that a Syracuse, New York adoption agency can continue its ban on placing children with LGBTQ couples and unmarried parents.
U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino found that New Hope Family Services can turn these couples away because doing so exercises the agency’s First Amendment right to free speech, reports Syracuse.com.
The decision is a reversal for D’Agostino, who originally ruled against New Hope in 2019, when New York’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) tried to shut the adoption agency down for violating the state’s non-discrimination laws.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, however, found that New Hope was exercising free speech when turning away LGBTQ people because forcing New Hope to follow the anti-discrimination law would be akin to forcing the agency to make a statement that LGBTQ people can be good parents.
“To state the obvious, it is no small matter for the State to order the closure of a privately funded, religious adoption ministry that has, over 50 years of authorized operation, successfully placed approximately 1,000 children in adoptive homes,” the judges wrote, “particularly when there is no suggestion that any placement was not in the best interests of the adopted child.”
Based on that decision, D’Agostino changed course and agreed that New Hope had a right to continue its practices.
In addition to supporting the agency’s right to free speech, D’Agostino also said there is no evidence that couples have been harmed by the anti-LGBTQ policy, as New Hope always refers them to other agencies that can help them.
“OCFS has not submitted any actual evidence of (1) complaints from referred couples, (2) referred couples that were unable to adopt, (3) referred couples that suffered increased wait times or costs, or (4) lengthening waiting lists at agencies without New Hope’s referral policy,” wrote D’Agostino.
New Hope was represented by the anti-LGBTQ organization, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group.
New Hope’s executive director, Kathy Jerman, also celebrated the win while reaffirming the agency’s anti-LGBTQ beliefs, as well as its belief that parents be married.
“Every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other…We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful that the court’s decision allows us to keep serving children and families.”
OCFS said that it’s “deeply disappointed” in the decision, saying that it still believes that “discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated.”
The office said that it’s “reviewing our options” in the case.