HRC on the Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign released the following statement ahead of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that considers whether taxpayer-funded foster care agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ people.

“Today’s oral arguments underscore the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in upholding equality and rejecting discrimination in all forms,” said Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “While this case focuses on foster care, it has broad implications. If the Court allows discrimination in this forum, it could open a Pandora’s Box for future discrimination – against LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike. It would certainly create grounds to discriminate against interfaith couples, or single people who are looking to become foster parents. And, it would set a dangerous precedent. For years, the Human Rights Campaign has consistently worked against bills that would grant a similar ‘license to discriminate’ in statehouses across the country because we have seen the type of damage that is done when children in care are denied the opportunity to find a family. And we have seen the damage that is done to prospective parents who are denied the chance to give children a loving home. Discrimination against LGBTQ people and our families is wrong, results in heartbreaking damage to children and parents alike and cannot be legally substantiated. We stand firmly against this type of insidious discrimination and the Supreme Court should do the same.”

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is a case that considers whether foster care agencies that receive government funds can discriminate against prospective parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs. The case could have a sweeping, harmful impact in the provision of child welfare services by enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection. The biggest barrier to placing children with families is a lack of qualified prospective parents. If the Court gives taxpayer-funded agencies a license to discriminate, thereby limiting the pool of prospective parents for no legitimate reason, this would further shrink the pool of qualified prospective parents.

According to new data from PRRI, a very broad majority of Americans (70%) oppose allowing religiously affiliated agencies that receive taxpayer funding to refuse to accept qualified gay and lesbian couples as foster parents, including 31% who strongly oppose it.

Many of the country’s top child welfare organizations have spoken out in opposition to state governments’ attempts to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into the provision of child welfare services around the country. Those groups include the Child Welfare League of America, North American Council on Adoptable Children, National Center for Adoption and Permanency, Foster Club and Voice For Adoption.

HRC recently released an updated report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: Why Creating Licenses to Discriminate for Government Contractors Hurts Children in the Child Welfare System, detailing the harms of efforts to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care.