Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
The City of Philadelphia ceased referring children to two of its foster care providers after learning that the agencies would not license same-sex couples to be foster parents. One of the agencies, Catholic Social Services, along with several foster parents, filed suit against the City of Philadelphia asking the court to order the city to renew the agency’s contract and allow them to continue to deny licenses to same-sex couples under the right to free exercise of religion. Juvenile Law Center joined Children’s Rights and other advocacy organizations on an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in support of the City of Philadelphia. Our brief argued that discriminating against prospective foster parents on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity harms children and diminishes their ability to achieve permanency.
The Third Circuit held that the City of Philadelphia's "non-discrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of [the foster care agency] do not entitle it to an exception from that policy."
The plaintiffs filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the petition.
Juvenile Law Center joined Children’s Rights and 31 other organizations and individuals in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the Court to affirm the Third Circuit’s decision. We argued that discriminating against prospective foster parents on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity harms children by unnecessarily narrowing the pool of prospective foster parents, reducing beneficial diversity among prospective foster parents, and stigmatizing the many LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit’s judgement, holding that the terms of the contractual agreement allowing the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.