In 2018, the City of Philadelphia learned that Catholic Social Services (CSS), a child welfare agency contracted with the city, had refused to place foster children with same-sex couples, claiming it violated their religious beliefs. The city ended the contract in keeping with Philadelphia’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. CSS sued, arguing infringement of their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech. In 2019, after various appeals, the Supreme Court granted review.
The case will determine whether states and localities can be forced to contract with child welfare agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs.
The brief explains that forcing states and localities to allow—and, in effect, to subsidize—discrimination against same-sex parents will cause significant and long-lasting harm to same-sex couples and children in foster care. It would likely reduce the number of homes available for children in need and stigmatize LGB people, which has been shown to jeopardize health and well-being. Furthermore, it would send a message that the government sanctions and approves LGB discrimination, potentially emboldening other forms of discrimination against LGB people.