Supreme Court To Hear Philadelphia Same-Sex Foster Dispute

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Landon Mion Contributor
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The Supreme Court is expected to favor a Catholic social services agency in a dispute with the city of Philadelphia over its unwillingness to work with same-sex couples hoping to be foster parents.

Catholic Social Services said its religious beliefs prevent it from permitting same-sex couples to be foster parents, the Associated Press reported. The agency does not believe it should be barred from a contract with Philadelphia to find homes for children in the foster care system.

As part of their contract, Philadelphia requires foster care agencies it works with to be nondiscriminatory.

With the Supreme Court holding a conservative majority, this case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, is likely to be a test of religious rights, according to AP. President Donald Trump appointing Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett during his time in office could turn out to be vital in this case.

Kavanaugh said this case requires the court to think about how to balance religious rights and the right to same-sex marriage.

“It seems when those rights come into conflict, all levels of government should be careful and should often, where possible and appropriate, look for ways to accommodate both interests in reasonable ways,” he said.

The conservative justices were not the only ones sympathetic toward Catholic Social Services, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who hopes to find a compromise in this case.

“If one wanted to find a compromise in this case, can you suggest one that wouldn’t do real damage to all the various lines of laws that have been implicated here,” she asked.

The justices heard arguments for the case Wednesday morning over the phone because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to AP. During the arguments, justices highlighted that there is no record indicating that same-sex couples requested to work with and were rejected by Catholic Social Services. The agency said that if a same-sex couple did make such a request, they would be referred to another agency that the city of Philadephia works with.

The Supreme Court, consisting of seven justices who are either Catholic or attended Catholic schools, proposed hypothetical scenarios in regard to contracts with officials, AP reported.

“If there is an agency that refuses to employ women, would the state have to contract with that agency?” Justice Elena Kagan asked during the hearing.

Barrett asked about a scenario in which a state contract with a private Catholic school would require it to perform abortions. (RELATED: SCOTUS Rules In Favor Of Catholic Nuns, Upholds Conscience Exemptions For Birth Control Mandate)

This case started in 2018 after a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer told city officials that two foster care agencies it has contracts with refused to work with same-sex couples, according to AP. Bethany Christian Services gave in and changed its policy. Catholic Social Services, on the other hand, did not.

Because they did not change their policy, the city stopped placing children with them, so the agency sued. Catholic Social Services said that recognizing a family as a foster family is an “endorsement of the relationships of those living in the home” and it is exempt from certifying same-sex couples due to its religious views.

Trump has urged the Supreme Court to vote in favor of Catholic Social Services because Philadelphia is unconstitutionally being discriminatory against religion. Two lower courts favored the city of Philadelphia.