Philadelphia Officials May Require Non-Discrimination In Foster Care, Court Says.


A federal appeals court ruled April 22 that officials in Philadelphia are not required to continue to contract with a foster care agency that refuses to certify same-sex couples as foster parents.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Catholic Social Services, a religiously affiliated agency that filed the lawsuit against Philadelphia officials after the city terminated the agency's contract to provide foster care because it would not follow the city's anti-discrimination rules. Specifically, the Catholic agency refused to place children with LGBTQ families.

The court, ruling on a request for a preliminary injunction, rejected Catholic Social Services' demand to force Philadelphia to continue to place foster children in the agency's care while the lawsuit moves forward.

Americans United filed a legal brief in the case, arguing that government must not fund a private entity's religiously motivated discrimination. The AU legal document also asserted that government may not grant special religious exceptions from a law when it would cause harm to others--in this case, both the same-sex couples who want to become foster parents and the children in need of homes.

"Decisions like this one have far-reaching implications," wrote Claire L. Hillan, an AU legal fellow, on AU's "Wall of Separation" blog. "In several cases, people and entities have tried to argue that foster care agencies have a religious-freedom right to discriminate against LGBTQ foster parents. In Michigan, for example, the Religious Right group Becket Fund represents foster parents who are suing to allow foster agencies to discriminate. And in South Carolina, Americans United has filed a lawsuit, Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and...

To continue reading