SCOTUS Hears Arguments in License to Discriminate Case: Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
On November 4, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could give taxpayer-funded agencies a broad license to discriminate when providing social services to someone who is LGBTQ, holds different religious beliefs, has been previously divorced, or otherwise contradicts what they say their agency believes.
A taxpayer-funded agency named Catholic Social Services (CSS) refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents, citing religious beliefs as the reason for denying them. Because this refusal violated the City of Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law and its contract for foster care services with CSS, in 2018, Philadelphia ended one of its contracts with CSS to provide foster care services. In turn, CSS sued the City of Philadelphia, arguing that Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law and contract were unconstitutional.
CSS claims that it has the right to refuse to certify same-sex couples as foster parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs and that it has a right to keep receiving taxpayer funding for those services, despite the discrimination. This is also despite the leader of the Catholic religion, Pope Francis, stating that LGBTQ people should be able to build families the same as any other community.
Although this specific case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, involves same-sex couples and foster care services, a case like this can have devastating, far-reaching implications.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of CSS, it could give taxpayer-funded service agencies a legal right to discriminate against any group of people solely based on religious beliefs. This includes services like foster care, food banks, homeless shelters, disaster relief services, and many other services and will impact communities of minority faiths, LGBTQ communities, unmarried couples, and many other people currently protected by our nation’s patchwork of civil rights laws. If we lose this case, the consequences will be far-reaching and broad—not just for LGBTQ people but for everyone.
“The growing spread of civil rights exemptions in public policy is why we created our All of Me. All the Time. campaign. LGBTQ people, like everyone, should have equitable and equal access to opportunity in all areas of life for all parts of who we are – without exception,” says Kierra Johnson, the Deputy Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “With Pope Francis in agreement that the Catholic faith should not prevent LGBTQ people from building families, it is clear to us that this is not about religious beliefs at all but a push to nullify civil rights protections for all of us,” Johnson continued.
The fight to make this vision a reality for our community and all others is taking place in courtrooms like the US Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill with bills like the Equality Act, at the White House and its various agencies, and across state and local governments. You can join our efforts at thetaskforce.org/allofmeallthetime