A Catholic foster care agency, cut off by the city of Philadelphia from receiving foster care referrals because of the agency's religious beliefs about marriage, has won its case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court, that has become more conservative in recent years, unanimously ruled the city was wrong to end its foster care contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) after it refused to work with same-sex couples looking to serve as foster parents.
Chief Justice John Roberts said the city's refusal to contract with the foster care agency unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the First Amendment.
"It is plain that the city's actions have burdened CSS's religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else," he said.
Catholic Social Services had argued its religious views keep it from considering same-sex couples as foster parents. The agency, which has a long history of placing foster children, said it shouldn’t be blocked from its work because of those views.
In its counter-argument, the City of Philadelphia argued that all of its foster care agencies are required to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
The case before the court began in 2018.
"It is striking, and telling, that the court's more liberal justices joined the court's decision," Richard Garnett, director of the University of Notre Dame law school program on church, state and society told USA Today. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue," he said.