GLAAD RESPONDS TO U.S. SUPREME COURT FULTON DECISION

June 17, 2021

“Agencies have a right to their religious beliefs, but they don’t have a right to a government contract, or to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate. Children belong in safe, loving homes that LGBTQ people can and do provide.  The Court's decision is specific to one agency and how one city applied its nondiscrimination law. This decision makes it clear, taxpayer-funded agencies do not have a constitutional right to discriminate based on religious beliefs, but LGBTQ people should not have to rely on the Supreme Court year after year to affirm our equality and our dignity. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Equality Act and send a clear message that every American should be protected from discrimination.” - Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO

(New York, NY - June 17, 2021) GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a limited ruling that impacts only the city’s contract with one faith-based foster care agency, Catholic Social Services. 

In the opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court made it clear that while it ruled in favor of CSS in this one contract dispute, faith-based agencies do not have a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, or to flout local nondiscrimination laws. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Court does not consider whether the City’s actions also violate the Free Speech Clause.”

The decision means government contractors cannot freely use their religious beliefs as a license to discriminate, not only against LGBTQ people, but also against single parents, people of other faiths like Judaism and Islam, Jewish, Muslim, and inter-faith and inter-racial couples.

Today’s opinion helps protect the many LGBTQ youth in the foster care system, who face heightened levels of discrimination in foster placements and for whom placement with LGBTQ parents can often mean their first experience with affirming homes. 

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter, and here:
“Agencies have a right to their religious beliefs, but they don’t have a right to a government contract, or to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate. Children belong in safe, loving homes that LGBTQ people can and do provide.  The Court's decision is specific to one agency and how one city applied its nondiscrimination law. This decision makes it clear, taxpayer-funded agencies do not have a constitutional right to discriminate based on religious beliefs, but LGBTQ people should not have to rely on the Supreme Court year after year to affirm our equality and our dignity. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Equality Act and send a clear message that every American should be protected from discrimination.”

SUPPORT FOR NONDISCRIMINATION LAWS:

  • GLAAD research shows up to 91% of Americans believe it should be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

  • 70% of Americans oppose allowing religiously affiliated agencies receiving taxpayer funding to refuse to accept qualified same-sex couples seeking to adopt or foster a child.

  • Faith-based groups, including those that serve Philadelphia, are already complying with nondiscrimination ordinances. Bethany Christian Services, a faith-based agency in Philadelphia, changed its policy in March to begin including LGBTQ couples as Catholic Social Services continued to appeal its lower court losses fighting for the right to discriminate. 

  • Roman Catholic nun Sr. Jeannine Gramic in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “The truth of the matter is that far too many children need loving homes and loving parents. Many LGBTQ parents are able to provide just that. The decision by Bethany Christian Services is rightfully being celebrated and reminds us of a notion many of us already know: treating LGBTQ people with fairness, dignity, and respect does not diminish one’s faith or harm our freedom of religion; it strengthens it.”

  • Polls also show the highest support in history, 76%, for laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, including support from Americans of all faith groups, ages and races. The Equality Act, which passed the House of Representatives in February and is awaiting action in the Senate, would provide comprehensive protections for every LGBTQ American. 70% of Americans support the Equality Act.

  • Research shows that discrimination against LGBTQ people increased after the Supreme Court’s decision the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which a baker had refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. 

GLAAD’s guide for journalists covering the Fulton case is here.