The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday
unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia
that had refused to place children with gay and lesbian couples.
In Fulton v. Philadelphia, the
high court agreed with Catholic Social Services' claim that under the
First Amendment it can refuse placements with LGBT families for
The ruling was written by Chief Justice
“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,” Roberts wrote.
In 2018, the city of Philadelphia
learned that Catholic Social Services was refusing to place children
with gay couples, a violation of the contract the agency signed with
the city. After the city threatened to terminate its contract, CSS
sued the city.
Catholic Social Services lost its case
in lower courts.
The unanimous decision, however, was
specific to the city of Philadelphia's contract with CSS, which is
expected to limit its reach.
“SCOTUS issues a narrow ruling in
#Fulton in favor of religious foster care agency Catholic Social
Services in Philadelphia but does not create a sweeping new religious
exemption to nondiscrimination law,” GLBTQ Legal Advocates &
Defenders (GLAD), a legal LGBT group, tweeted.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, added: “#SCOTUS has ruled
non-discrimination laws apply to taxpayer-funded child services so
long as they are enforced neutrally but that Philadelphia's law was
In a press release, the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) declared that the high court's decision in
Fulton “does not create a license to discriminate based on
“We are relieved that the court did
not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs,”
said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV
Project. “Opponents of LGBTQ equality have been seeking to undo
hard-won non-discrimination protections by asking the court to
establish a constitutional right to opt out of such laws when
discrimination is motivated by religious beliefs. This is the second
time in four years that the court has declined to do so. This is good
news for LGBTQ people and for everyone who depends on the protections
of non-discrimination laws."