Advocates Tell Supreme Court to Reject a License to Discriminate

A Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers — including Republican State Lawmakers and Democratic Leadership in Congress — Are Among Over 1000 Voices Filing at Least 46 Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Today

August 20, 2020 3:45 pm

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WASHINGTON — In the next major LGBTQ case that will be heard before the Supreme Court, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, child welfare advocates, faith leaders and groups as well as LGBTQ advocates urged the court to reject a license to discriminate in taxpayer-funded services.

The briefs were filed in the case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia which involves a taxpayer-funded foster care agency, Catholic Social Services, which has asked the Supreme Court to establish a constitutional right to discriminate that could allow taxpayer-funded agencies across the country to turn away qualified families who don’t meet their religious test because they are LGBTQ, of a different religion, don’t go to church, or any other reason.

Advocates warn that a ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services could allow private agencies that receive taxpayer-funding to provide government services — such as foster care providers, food banks, homeless shelters, and more — to deny services based on a religious test.

“The court was told today that this case is not only about the LGBTQ-parent families who could be turned away from foster care,” said Leslie Cooper, deputy director for the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. “If the court opens the door to discrimination based on a religious test, it would be devastating for millions of people who rely upon critical government services. Not only will the 440,000 children in our child welfare system lose out on qualified parents who are LGBTQ or a different faith than the agency, but people in need of taxpayer-funded services like homeless shelters or food banks could also be turned away because they are LGBTQ, Jewish, Mormon or otherwise don’t meet the provider’s religious criteria.”

Highlights from the at least 46 briefs filed on behalf of the City of Philadelphia and the ACLU’s clients, Philadelphia Family Pride and the Support Center for Child Advocates, include:

  • Republican lawmakers, and over 100 members of Congress including Democratic leadership from both the House and the Senate.

  • The Anti-Defamation League, Sikh Coalition and numerous other faith organizations, as well as hundreds of clergy members from diverse faith communities, expressing concern about the impact on minority faith communities if government service providers can exclude participants who do not meet their religious standards.

  • Prospective foster parents who were turned away by child-placement agencies because of their faith or sexual orientation.

  • National and local child welfare organizations concerned about the impact of a ruling on the 440,000 children in the child welfare system in need of loving families.

  • Former foster youth who were placed in group homes and aged out of foster care due to the lack of available families. They urge the court not to establish a right to discriminate against qualified families, which would make it even harder to find families for children who need them.

  • Nearly half of states and dozens of cities and mayors concerned about the ability of the government to provide critical services without discrimination.

Arguments in the case will be held on November 4, 2020.

Friend-of-the-court briefs and other case documents will be uploaded here:

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