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Same-Sex Rights vs. Religious Rights

By Gabriela Mendez

On Monday, Feb. 24, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they will hear a case in relation to a conflict between the City of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services (CSS), a foster care agency that refuses to place foster children with same-sex couples on basis of faith. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia goes that the city terminated its contract with CSS because the agency’s policy prevented same-sex parents from adopting foster children. Which violates the city’s nondiscrimination laws. The agency in response sued the city accusing them of violating their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. 

The city has won its case twice in lower courts and in April 2019 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia. 

The case is now to be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall where they will decide whether the city violated CSS’s right to religious freedom. 

A predicament such as this has happened in the city before through a different religious foster agency. 

In March 2018, a lesbian couple tried to adopt a foster child and was turned away from Bethany Christian Services based on their policy of religious belief against same-sex couples. But, after the Inquirer reported about the incident the agency changed its their policy to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination laws. 

That being said, if the Supreme Court falls in favor of for the city the government can’t go full force in forcing an agency that just because it receives public funds to comprise its beliefs.

For the Religious Freedom Restoration Act states that, “The government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” 

Meaning that the government can’t create a law that protects LGBTQ citizens from catholic organizations’ discrimination but it doesn’t mean that LQBTQ citizens’ rights shouldn’t be protected against these types of discrimination. 

CSS is one of the 29 foster care agencies in Philadelphia and although the city could have handled the controversy in other ways these agencies should in a way adapt to the way that families now come in all types of shapes and sizes. 

These agencies should at the end of the day put their beliefs aside in order to allow these thousands of children that enter foster care on a daily basis to have a higher chance of finding a home. And by having these agencies religious beliefs impacting these children’s lives could decrease their chances in getting out of these agencies into loving homes. 

But being that they are one of the few foster agencies that are neglecting same-sex couples in the city the Supreme Court will likely fall in favor of the Catholic organization that forcing their belief to fall in with the times is inflicting on their right to religious freedom. 

Still, the decision the Supreme Court makes will greatly impact the lives of the children in these foster agencies that are being super picky in letting their religious beliefs top these children’s rights in finding happy homes no matter what sex, gender, race or etc. their parents may be. 

Where Leslie Cooper the director of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT and HIV Project told the NY Times that this case is crucial for the 400,000 children in foster care. 

“We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children,” Cooper said. “Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse.”

Gabriela Mendez can be reached at gabriela.mendez@spartans.ut.edu

 

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