LGBTQ groups enter SCOTUS fight between Philly, Catholic charity over foster services | Friday Morning Coffee

August 21, 2020 7:10 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A coalition of Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ groups have joined a U.S. Supreme Court fight between the city of Philadelphia and a Catholic foster care agency that won’t allow same-sex couples to serve as foster parents, arguing that the ban is discriminatory and harms children.

The four groups — the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center; The Mazzoni CenterThe Pennsylvania Youth Congress, and the William Way LGBT Community Center, joined a friend-of-the-court brief signed by a total of 26 local, state, and national organizations that serve LGBTQ youth, according to a statement the groups released Thursday.

The nation’s highest court is expected to hear oral arguments this fall in Philadelphia’s ongoing legal dispute with Catholic Social Services over whether the agency’s religious freedom protections were violated when Philadelphia officials canceled its contract because the Catholic charity refuses to place foster children with same-sex couples, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in February.

Philadelphia has a nondiscrimination clause in its contract, and has twice prevailed in lower courts, the Inquirer reported. According to the Inquirer, the Catholic charity also does not place children with unmarried couples because of its religious beliefs.

For the Pennsylvania activists, the question before the court is clear cut: It’s wrong for an agency to receive public funding from the city so that it can discriminate against city residents.

“Every LGBTQ adult, coupled or not, carries scars from childhood bias. Philadelphia’s rule protects LGBTQ children and adults against discriminatory bias and against more trauma,” Thomas Ude Jr., the legal and public policy director at the Mazzoni Center, said. “If an agency wants to serve Philadelphia’s children, it should agree to respect the full dignity of those children. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

(Image via The Philadelphia Gay News)

An attorney for Catholic Social Services told the Inquirer in February that the high court’s eventual decision in the case will address the nationwide debate around faith-based adoption and foster care.

“I want to emphasize, same-sex couples are able to foster and adopt in Philadelphia,” the charity’s attorney, Lori Windham, told the newspaper. “That has been true for years. It continues to be true today. Catholic Social Services is just one of 29 agencies, and asks to be able to continue providing excellent services and following its faith.”

On Thursday, Chris Bartlett, the executive director of Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center, said the Catholic agency’s policy furthers the “harmful impact of discrimination against LGBT foster parents and the children they foster,” which results in  “fewer qualified foster parents to serve the great demand.

The community center is the training site for “LGBT and ally foster parents in the region — precisely to meet the demand for foster parents who bring sensitivity to serve the many LGBT youth seeking a family home placement,” Bartlett continued.  “A religious exemption should not be a tool to discriminate against these LGBT foster parents or the children they protect.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

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