Nebraska groups respond to Thursday Supreme Court ruling

LINCOLN — The United States Supreme Court unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency Thursday, saying the city of Philadelphia wrongly limited its relationship with the group as a result of the agency's claims that its religious view preclude it from working with same-sex couples.

Philadelphia learned in 2018 from a newspaper reporter that Catholic Social Services would not certify same-sex couples to become foster parents. The city has said it requires the foster care agencies it works with not to discriminate as part of their contracts. The city asked Catholic Social Services to change its policy, but the group declined.

As a result, Philadelphia stopped referring additional children to the agency. Catholic Social Services sued, but lower courts sided with Philadelphia.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote Thursday for a majority of the court that Catholic Social Services “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.”

The Catholic agency also does not certify unmarried couples.

Roberts concluded that Philadelphia’s refusal to “contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents ... violates the First Amendment.”

Closer to home, Tom Venzor, Executive Director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, issued the following statement:

The unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Sharonell Fulton is a victory for foster parents and those vulnerable children in need of a loving home. The court affirmed that reasonable people of good will, who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, should be able to live and work in the public square according to their sincerely held beliefs. This decision is a signal to government that it cannot target organizations nor individuals, just because of their religious views.

Sara Rips, Legal and Policy Counsel at the ACLU of Nebraska, issued the following statement on behalf of her organization:

Today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous but very narrow ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia.  The Court made their decision based on very specific circumstances.  The key takeaways are that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that religious beliefs give people and organizations a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people and that cities and states can continue to enforce local fairness laws to  protect them and others from discrimination so long as they do so even-handedly.  While the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock last summer made clear that federal law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, as this case shows, gaps still remain when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Rather than continuing to follow this case-by-case approach to LGBTQ equality, it is long past due for Congress to pass the Equality Act so that the rights of everyone are respected everywhere. The ACLU of Nebraska and our allies across the political spectrum will keep fighting forward for fairness and equality.