WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday in favor of a Catholic foster care agency that refuses to certify same-sex couples as foster parents due to its religious views.
In the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the high court found that the city violated the Constitution by limiting its relationship with the Catholic agency over its practices.
A 2018 newspaper article recounted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s position that Catholic Social Services could not consider foster parents in same-sex marriages. Though, the agency has contracted with the city for over 50 years and there are other foster care agencies in the city that will certify same-sex couples, according to the court’s opinion.
Soon, LGBTQ+ advocates called for change and the city ultimately informed the Catholic agency that it would no longer refer children to them in the future unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples. The city argued that the agency’s practices violated both a nondiscrimination provision in its contract and a nondiscrimination requirement in the city’s fair practices ordinance.
The agency and three affiliated foster parents then sued the city on the grounds that it violated the free exercise and free speech clauses of the First Amendment.
A district court sided with the city, as did an appeals court before the case was argued before the Supreme Court in November of 2020.
Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the court, which sided with the agency.
“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS 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,” wrote Roberts.
Roberts said the city doesn’t have a “compelling interest” in refusing to contract the agency.
“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” wrote Roberts. “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Court does not consider whether the City’s actions also violate the Free Speech Clause.”
The Diocese of Grand Rapids is in agreement with the decision.
“We are encouraged by the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision this morning recognizing that faith-based agencies like Catholic Charities West Michigan should be protected, not shut down, because of their desire to offer desperately needed services to children in accord with their religious beliefs.
More than 425 children found loving homes through Catholic Charities West Michigan’s adoption and foster care programs this past year. Today’s unanimous SCOTUS decision affirms the importance of preserving the presence of faith-based institutions, which serve communities across our nation.”