Can Religious Foster Care Agencies Continue to Deny LGBTQ Couples? SCOTUS Will Decide.

The case could have watershed implications for same-sex couples looking to foster in the U.S.

The Supreme Court will decide if religious foster care agencies can turn away LGBTQ couples. On Monday, the court announced it would hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that could have blockbuster implications for same-sex couples looking to foster in the U.S.

The case was brought by Catholic Social Services (CSS) against the City of Philadelphia, which pulled the agency’s government-funded contract for refusing to place kids with same-sex couples. CSS claims it has a First Amendment right to turn LGBTQ couples away. CSS argues that, from 1917 to 2018, no same-sex couple approached them looking to foster.

Philadelphia officials says contract agencies have to comply to its non-discrimination law in order to receive tax-payer money. Another agency found to be turning away LGBTQ couples in March 2018 has since complied with the law, according to the ACLU.

CSS lost its case in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania and has appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where LGBTQ advocates worry that the court’s conservative tilt could cement discrimination against queer families.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, said in a media statement that the case could have profound consequences for more than 400,000 kids in foster care nationwide.

“We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children,” Cooper said. “Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child, such as their sexual orientation or faith, would make it even worse.”

Karen Loewy, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, says the case is critical not just for LGBTQ couples but also for queer foster kids.

“Those kids are often getting lost in the shuffle,” Loewy told NewNowNext. “They have no control over where they end up or what homes they end up in. To allow publicly-funded government-contracted providers of public child welfare systems to impose a religious litmus test, the danger of harm to those kids is real.”

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.