The ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, representing the Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride, intervened in a lawsuit brought by a taxpayer-funded government-contracted foster care agency claiming a constitutional right to discriminate against prospective foster families headed by same-sex couples in violation of the City’s contract. The ACLU is supporting the City’s right to require all of its contracted foster care agencies to accept all qualified families.

The City of Philadelphia learned in March 2018 that two of the agencies it hires to provide foster care services to children in the public child welfare system would not license same-sex couples to be foster parents based on the agencies’ religious beliefs.    The City informed both agencies that City contracts prohibit such discrimination and stopped referring children to them.  One of the agencies agreed to comply.  The other, Catholic Social Services, sued the City, claiming that the right to free exercise of religion entitles it to a taxpayer-funded contract to perform a government service even though it is unwilling to comply with the City’s requirement that contract agencies accept all qualified families.

UPDATE: On April 22, 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of Catholic Social Services’ motion for a preliminary injunction and rejected the argument that agencies performing public child welfare services have a constitutional right to discriminate.

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