Supreme Court Ruling In Same-Sex Foster Care Parents Case

June 17, 2021

Today’s ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue.

Professor Richard W. Garnett, founding director of Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Church, State, and Society, on today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Catholic agency that refused to work with same-sex couples, citing its religious views.

BACKGROUND: In 2018, Philadelphia cancelled its contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS), a foster care agency, after CSS said it would not certify same-sex couples to become foster parents because doing so would be inconsistent with its religious beliefs. CSS sued citing its religious liberties.

The lower federal courts ruled in favor of Philadelphia, but the Supreme Court said Philadelphia violated the First Amendment when it cancelled the contract with CSS because it was not acting neutral by improperly applying the city's non-discrimination policy – allowing non-religious exemptions, but not religious exemptions.

BIG PICTURE: The Court's ruling is VERY NARROW and specific to the facts of the case. The court did not award any "relief" (monetary compensation) sought by the plaintiff; the High Court also did not find a religious freedom exemption to anti-discrimination laws (meaning a claim of "religious freedom" does not mean you don't have to follow anti-discrimination laws).

Here’s two good overviews by The Associated Press and USA Today.

by Jenna Lee,