The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday unanimously overturned a lower court ruling regarding the City of Philadelphia barring foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services due to its unwillingness to endorse same-sex couples.
In a 9-0 judgment, SCOTUS held that the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It came about after Philadelphia stopped foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the basis of its beliefs and practices on traditional marriage.
“Philadelphia took this extraordinary action not in response to any legal violation, nor in response to any complaint it received, but because of CSS’s religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage, which City officials read about in the local paper,” the petitioner’s brief reads, noting the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, considering the city’s actions “neutral.”
“The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, in which he ultimately determined the city’s action did so.
The city’s actions, he wrote, “burdened CSS’s religious exercise by
putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving
relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” noting the city’s dissent
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