Federal Appeals Court Rules Catholic Foster Care Agency Cannot Discriminate Against LGBTQ Couples

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that city contractors must abide by non-discrimination policies in the placement of foster children with same-sex couples.

For the second time in two years, the federal appeals court ruled that the City of Philadelphia did not violate the religious freedoms of a Catholic social services agency when it severed a foster-care contract with an agency of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

That agency, Catholic Social Services, had refused to place foster children with LGBTQ parents and sought an injunction that would have forced the city to renew its contract.

The appeals panel said “the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception” from the city’s nondiscrimination policy. The agency “has failed to make a persuasive showing that the City targeted it for its religious beliefs, or is motivated by ill will against its religion, rather than sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“The City stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services,” concluded Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ambro, writing for the panel.

Attorneys for CSS claimed that the ruling will hurt hundreds of potential foster children and foster parents who were waiting for a placement.

“We’re disappointed that the court decided to let the city place politics above the needs of kids and the rights of parents, but we will continue this fight,” said Lori Windham, a lawyer for Catholic Social Services as quoted by The Associated Press.

“Our policy ensures that same-sex couples do not face discrimination as they seek to offer loving homes to Philadelphia children in need of foster care,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “At the same time, the policy safeguards religious liberties. We are proud that Philadelphia is a welcoming, inclusive city that values the diversity of its residents.”

This week’s ruling upholds a lower court decision siding with the city and its nondiscrimination policy, reports NPR News.