Supreme Court justices sympathise with discrimination as they hear crucial LGBT+ case
The conservative nature of the US Supreme Court may already be posing a risk to LGBT+ rights as they hear a vital case.
The Fulton v City of Philadelphia case is about whether religious fostering organizations can refuse LGBT+ parents. But it could have far more wide-reaching implications.
And the hearings yesterday indicated conservative justices may be sympathetic to the religious side of the argument.
Justice Samuel Alito said: ‘If we are honest about what’s really going on here, it’s not about ensuring that same-sex couples in Philadelphia have the opportunity to be foster parents.
‘It’s the fact that the city can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.’
Likewise Justice Brett Kavanaugh, also a conservative, said the city’s stance was ‘absolutist’ and ‘extreme’.
Two sets of rights ‘in tension’
The case dates back to March 2018.
That month, the city of Philadelphia discovered two of the agencies it hired to provide foster care services to children in the city’s care would not, based on their religious objection, accept same-sex couples as foster parents.
Philadelphia informed the agencies that it would no longer refer children to them unless they agreed to comply with nondiscrimination requirements. The city makes the requirements part of all foster care agency contracts. One of the agencies agreed to do so.
However, the other, Catholic Social Services (CSS), sued the city. It claims the US Constitution gives it the right to opt out of the nondiscrimination requirement.
Crucially the case is coming before the court shortly after it moved to an even more decisive conservative majority. President Donald Trump’s addition of Amy Coney Barrett stacked the court six-three in the conservatives’ favor.
In yesterday’s hearing, Justice Barrett wasn’t as outspoken as some of her other colleagues. However, she still seemed sympathetic to Catholic Social Services. She imagined a hypothetical scenario where the city ran hospitals and forced a Catholic hospital to carry out abortions.
By contrast, Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative who sometimes sides with the liberals, appeared to understand Philadelphia’s viewpoint.
He noted: ‘This is a case involving free exercise rights, but it’s in tension with another set of rights.
‘And whatever you think, or however you think that tension should be resolved as a matter of government regulation, shouldn’t the city get to strike the balance as it wishes when it comes to setting conditions for participating in what is, after all, its foster program?’
Likewise, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s liberals, pointed out that Philadelphia allowed Catholic Social Services to object to same-sex couples but simply wouldn’t let it refuse to work with them.
‘Compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination’
Away from the court, Liz Cooper, director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice, warned a decision in favor of CSS could be quite profound:
She said a ruling against LGBT+ couples could also open up discrimination against other religions – for example Jews, Mormons, Muslims and even Catholics.
Moreover, she said it would put at risk other social services ‘in countless contexts, including homelessness, refugee resettlement, substance-use treatment, childcare – not only in the realm of foster care’.
Meanwhile Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Catholic Social Services had agreed to work under the Philadelphia’s rules when they accepted the city’s money.
He added: ‘They are expected to work in the best interests of children and abide by the provision in the public government contract that forbids discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, not impose their personal religious beliefs.
‘Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or in this case, sexual orientation, not only denies these children safe and loving homes, it is unfair and illegal to any eligible adults who are willing and able to help children in need.
‘As the Supreme Court makes its decision, we urge the justices to uphold Philadelphia’s compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination.’
He said any other ruling would allow further attacks under the First Amendment to LGBT+ people and other marginalized groups.
The justices are expected to rule in the case next May or June.
Published on GayStarNews Read the original article
Author: Tris Reid-Smith