Thursday, June 17, 2021
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia may turn away gay and lesbian couples as clients, a victory for conservatives with the potential to shift the balance between LGBTQ rights and the First Amendment's protection of religious exercise.
In one of the most significant cases before a Supreme Court that has become more conservative in recent years, the justices handed down the most high profile defeat to LGBTQ rights advocates since a 2018 decision absolved a Colorado baker of discrimination for refusing to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Catholic Social Services said its religious views keep it from screening same-sex couples as foster parents. The agency, with a long history of placing foster children, said it shouldn’t be blocked from its work because of those views. Philadelphia countered that all of itsfoster care agencies are required to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
"It is striking, and telling, that the court's more liberal justices joined the court's decision," said Richard Garnett, director of the University of Notre Dame law school program on church, state and society. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue."