City sees widespread support in Supreme Court adoption case

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On Thursday, August 20th, 26 LGBTQ organizations, including the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, The Pennsylvania Youth Congress, Mazzoni Center, and William Way LGBT Community Center signed on to an amicus “friend of the court” brief supporting the city of Philadelphia in its case against Catholic Social Services (CSS). Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia, which will be argued before the Supreme Court this fall, involves the city’s refusal to allow CSS to place foster children in homes because CSS does not place children with same-sex households. City officials maintain such policies go against Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which bans anti-LGBT bias in public accommodations.

“As Philadelphia’s LGBT Community Center, we have seen historically the harmful impact of discrimination against LGBT foster parents and the children they foster, namely fewer qualified foster parents to serve the great demand,” said Chris Bartlett,  Executive Director of William Way LGBT Community Center. “A religious exemption should not be a tool to discriminate against these LGBT foster parents or the children they protect.”

Of the nearly half-million children in the U.S. who need foster or forever homes: some  15,000 of them are located in Pennsylvania.

“We help trauma survivors, including LGBTQ survivors, every day,” Thomas Ude, Jr., Mazzoni Center’s Legal and Public Policy Director, said in a press release. “If an agency wants to serve Philadelphia’s children, it should agree to respect the full dignity of those children. Otherwise, what’s the point?” 

Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, echoed Ude’s sentiments.

“Catholic Social Services has dug their heels all the way to the Supreme Court in their unapologetic desire to discriminate,” Shanker said in a press release. “LGBTQ youth already face substantial barriers to receiving the love and support they need. Discriminatory treatment in foster care only adds trauma to youth already burdened with systemic challenges.”

Pennsylvania Youth Congress Ambassador Jasper Oberlander, who grew up as a trans youth in foster care, stated “I know the struggle of waiting for a family to take me home. For many of us, adoption never even becomes an option and we end up being raised in group homes and youth shelters. This is especially true for LGBT youth in foster care. Everyone deserves a loving and safe home, but allowing for discrimination will cause significant harm by leaving more children in the system without the chance to have a family. No public funding should ever allow for the hostility of discrimination.“

Amicus briefs in support of the city have also been filed by groups including the National Women’s Law Center, SAGE, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, KidsVoice, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Bar Association, 22 states, 24 U.S. Senators, 148 members of Congress, several religious organizations and individuals, including the president of the House Of Deputies Of The Episcopal Church, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the Methodist Federation For Social Action, as well as 32 major corporations.

The corporations, whose industries include technology, airlines, housing, pharmaceuticals, retail, and banking, have an estimated revenue of over $600 billion.

“These corporate giants are speaking to the Court to emphasize the dangers of adopting a rule that would allow social service providers to use government funds to turn away qualified individuals based on the providers’ personal beliefs,” said Alphonse Davis, president of HRC, who filed the brief with Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Patty Palacios, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson, told PGN that “Steptoe was proud to partner with the Human Rights Campaign and represent more than 30 businesses and organizations in submitting an amicus brief opposing discrimination in all its forms and supporting policies that protect the rights and equal treatment of the amici’s employees, customers and families of both, so that all are treated with dignity and respect.”

The brief for the corporations states the importance of nondiscrimination laws and the fact that “broad new exemptions” to nondiscrimination laws would invite discrimination  “that would be harmful to amici’s business.” The brief also states in part that a favorable ruling for CSS would “open the door for contractors to claim broad exemptions from valid contractual requirements,” furthering the possibility of discrimination.