The Supreme Court just started hearings on religious freedoms in the realms of gay fostering and adoption, and it is not looking good for us.
According to CNBC, Wednesday marked the start of arguments over the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123, Supreme Court case. At the heart of the case is the question of whether foster and adoption agencies can reject gay couples from fostering or adopting children based on religious beliefs. This case is the first major Supreme Court case with Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the bench. Not only has Barrett’s views on LGBTQ rights come into question, but the Supreme Court is now majority conservative. And, it’s showing.
The main argument raised during the hearing, according to the Associated Press, was whether the court would see CSS as a government program or as the recipient of a license to provide a service. The implications being, government programs should not be affiliated with the religious freedom movement. Neal Katyal, the attorney for Philadelphia, stated that allowing CSS to win could “radiate far beyond foster care.” One example he gave was police officers could excuse not fulfilling their duties with religious beliefs or private contractors could refuse to provide services to other religious groups from “Buddhist to Baptist.”
Conservative justices, however, were adamant that the city of Philadelphia was “looking for a fight,” as Justice Brett Kavanaugh put it.
“If we are honest about what is really going on here, it’s not about ensuring that same-sex couples in Philadelphia have the opportunity to be foster parents,” said Justice Samuel Alito.
Alito then added, “It’s the fact the city can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.”
Meanwhile, Amy Coney Barrett suggested that Philadelphia was overreaching. Alito and Kavanaugh also repeatedly mentioned that if same-sex couples approached CSS, the Catholic foster services provider at the heart of this case, the agency would have just referred them to another one of the city’s agencies. But for Philadelphia’s side, the issue is in the moral and legal precedent.
The case at the center of tese aguments began in 2018. Catholic Social Services, which follows the Roman Catholic Church, would not certify same-sex couples as suitable parents. After hearing of this, the city of Philadelphia stopped referring new children to the group with the defense that the city’s sexual orientation discrimination laws were being violated. The city then updated its 2019 contract with foster care services to further support same-sex couples looking to be parents.
Catholic Social Services then fought back by suing the city, saying that Philadelphia had violated the foster agency’s First Amendment rights. Two lower courts, however, voted in favor of the city and cited a 1990 Supreme Court precedent known as Employment Division v. Smith. That ruling stated that some state and local laws could affect religion as long as they were neutral and generally applied to everyone.
The way the case is looking right now, that prior Supreme Court may not hold up. It appears that many of the justices will simply vote along their party/ideology lines. And with the Supreme Court now 6-3 in terms of conservative and liberal perspectives, things are not looking good for same-sex couples.