Changes to the United States Supreme Court on LGBTQ + issues


Fulton v. City of Philadelphia involved a religious adoption and fostering agency that refused to provide services to married same-sex couples. The agency’s denial of services was based on the religious beliefs of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which runs the agency. Due to the denial of services to same-sex married couples, Philadelphia canceled a contract with the agency due to this discriminatory practice. The diocese then sued the city, alleging that local regulations discriminate against the diocese because of its religious beliefs.

A year ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to support the LGBTQ + community by ruling that employers who fire an employee because that employee is gay, lesbian or transgender violate Title VII of the 1964 on civil rights. But a year ago, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was still on the pitch. Today, Associate Judge Amy Coney Barrett occupies Ginsberg’s former seat on the tribunal. And today, with the addition of Barrett, there’s a Tory 6-3 majority, including the two other people appointed by former President Donald Trump, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. It is a much different tribunal today than it was a year ago. No one was sure what to expect in the Fulton case – until last month, when the court unanimously backed the church.

For more than 100 years, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia ran Catholic Social Services (CSS), a foster care agency in the city. CSS had a contract with the city to provide foster care and adoption services to city residents under which CSS received funds from city taxpayers. In a survey conducted in early 2018 in the main Philadelphia newspaper, the Philadelphia Investigator, found that CSS had a policy of refusing to provide fostering or adoption services to same-sex couples. The newspaper informed the city’s Department of Social Services (DHS), the department overseeing and enforcing regulations for these foster care agencies, and asked if the city was aware of CSS policy. DHS found that only one other foster and adoption agency in town run by religious organizations (there were several) had a similar policy of discriminating against couples alike. sex. DHS Secretary Cynthia Figueroa later canceled CSS’s contract with the city over CSS’s discriminatory practices.

CSS and the Archdiocese sued Philadelphia under the Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech Clause, and the First Amendment Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. CSS also alleged that religious discrimination had been perpetrated against them by the city government. The free exercise clause, together with the establishment clause, reads in the relevant part: “Congress shall not make any law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of it. The claim was that the city of Philadelphia government, by canceling its contract with CSS because CSS did not provide services to same-sex couples, was using the power of the government to discriminate against CSS and the diocese solely on the basis of beliefs. nuns of both; that by canceling the contract, the city was preventing the CSS and the Archdiocese from freely exercising their religious beliefs and using the power of the government to impermissibly disadvantage the Catholic faith.

The implications are devastating for LGBTQ + families and their ability to work with adoption and foster care agencies run by religious organizations. As with most cases involving LGBTQ + discrimination issues, this case pits the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation against claims that “religious freedom” allows various churches and religious organizations to openly discriminate. people from the LGBTQ community because of religious beliefs.

The case was argued in the Supreme Court on November 4, the day after the 2020 election. Barrett had been on the ground for just 10 days. It’s also important to note that the court’s six Conservative justices – Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett – were brought up in Catholicism and all six remain practicing Catholics to this day. .

Ginsberg has spent his entire life fighting discrimination of all kinds, including against the LGBTQ + community. After her death last year, Rea Carey, executive director of the LGBTQ National Task Force, said in a statement: “Judge Ginsburg was an American hero and pioneer, a voice for so many marginalized people, leaving behind a a legacy of courage, tenacity, and history in creating a better country and a better world for all of us. We are all very grateful for everything Justice Ginsburg has done for LGBTQ people, for women, for our ability to control our own bodies, for anyone looking to advance freedom in this country. ”

Barret, on the other hand, belongs to a Catholic sect that believes women should be submissive to their husbands, and openly opposes both abortion and almost all rights accorded to members of the LGBTQ + community, even forbidding them to belong to the sect.


Christopher B. Dolan is the owner of the Dolan law firm, PC. Matthew D. Gramly is a senior partner lawyer based in our San Francisco office. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California from our offices in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. Email your questions and topics for future articles to: [email protected]


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