Trump administration argues adoption orgs. allowed to refuse LGBT couples

The Justice Department, under the administration of US President Donald Trump, has weighed in heavily in the past on LGBTQ issues.

LGBTQ flag (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
LGBTQ flag
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Trump administration has filed a brief to the Supreme Court, arguing that a taxpayer-funded social services agency should be allowed to refuse to work with same-sex couples if it violates the agency's religious beliefs, NBC News reported.
The 35-page brief was filed by Justice Department attorneys in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which centers on the refusal of the religious nonprofit child welfare agency Catholic Social Services (CSS) to allow same-sex couples to adopt and foster children.
While barring adoption services to same-sex couples is in violation of Philadelphia's nondiscrimination ordinance, the CSS claims that they are exercising their freedom of religion and speech, and to prevent them from doing so would be in violation of their rights.
“Philadelphia has impermissibly discriminated against religious exercise,” the Justice Department brief reads, adding that the actions of the Philadelphia city government “reflect unconstitutional hostility toward Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs.”
The CSS first filed a lawsuit in 2018 when the city ended its contract with the organization due to its practice of not considering same-sex couples as foster parents. The district court ruled against the faith-based organization, and a unanimous ruling from the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision, NBC reported.
Despite these setbacks, the CSS appealed to the Supreme Court back in February, and is being represented by lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“I’m relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will weigh in on faith-based adoption and foster care,” Beckett senior counsel Lori Windham said at the time, according to NBC.
“Over the last few years, agencies have been closing their doors across the country, and all the while children are pouring into the system.”
The decision by the Supreme Court to take on the case, however, has raised concerns of civil rights advocates, due to the potential consequences in a ruling favoring the faith-based nonprofit.
“While this case involves rejecting LGBTQ families, if the court accepts the claims made in this case, not only will this hurt children in foster care by reducing the number of families to care for them, but anyone who depends on a wide range of government services will be at risk of discrimination based on their sexual orientation, religion or any other characteristic that fails a provider’s religious litmus test,” ACLU's LGBT and HIV Project deputy director Leslie Cooper told NBC.
These worries could be justified, as there is legal precedent for state-licensed agencies to claim religious exemptions regarding adoption and foster care. Eleven US states currently have such laws on the books, and others are considering similar measures, NBC reported.
Additional reasons for these worries come as the Justice Department, under the administration of US President Donald Trump, has weighed in heavily in the past on LGBTQ issues, including Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – in which a Christian baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on grounds of religious freedom.
Like Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the US government is not a party in the lawsuit, meaning the brief was submitted voluntarily, according to the Washington Blade.