Attorney General Becerra Continues Effort to Defend Rights of Same-Sex Couples Seeking to Adopt or Become Foster Parents

Thursday, August 20, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of a City of Philadelphia ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The friend-of-the-court-brief — centering around a challenge to the city’s anti-discrimination law brought by a religiously-affiliated foster care agency in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia — builds on the coalition’s successful defense of the ordinance at the appellate court level. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court for additional review. In the amicus brief, the coalition highlights the states’ shared interest in combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in child welfare services, and argues that foster children, especially LGBTQ youth, benefit when agencies welcome a large pool of potential foster parents.

“We already know that there’s no place for discrimination based on who you love,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The highest court in our nation just months ago affirmed that right in our workplaces. It’s time to do the same when it comes to taking care of our children. The lower courts have already upheld Philadelphia’s ordinance against discrimination in public contracts and we urge the U.S. Supreme Court to, again, stand on the right side of history. Rolling back protections for LGBTQ foster families isn’t just wrong, it erodes the chance for our children to have a loving place to call home.”

The case stems from a 2018 lawsuit by Catholic Social Services (CSS) seeking to overturn a contract the agency had previously signed and agreed to with the City of Philadelphia in 2015 to provide foster care placement services. As part of the contract, CSS agreed to comply with Philadelphia’s Fair Practice Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on certain protected characteristics. Following reports that CSS was not in compliance with the ordinance and CSS’ admission that it would not certify a same-sex couple with a home study as part of that couple’s adoption application, the city closed intake of children into the agency. CSS then sought to block the anti-discrimination ordinance and was rejected at both the district and appellate court level. The appellate court held that, in the context of providing a public service, the city is permitted to condition contracts to avoid discrimination. Like Philadelphia, California has a significant interest in defending laws that work to combat discrimination, particularly when it comes to the health and well-being of children.

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that:

  • Foster care services are critically important public services and, in many states, have long included anti-discrimination requirements;
  • Anti-discrimination provisions prevent serious social harms to LGBTQ people;
  • Welcoming a large pool of foster parents benefits foster children, especially LGBTQ youth;
  • State and local governments have additional interests in preventing discrimination in the provision of public services, including when those services are provided through contractors; and
  • Experience shows that a plentiful range of private organizations can comply with anti-discrimination policies in providing foster care services, and that the few organizations that will not comply can still contribute to the welfare of children and families.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to fighting against discrimination wherever it occurs. In April, the Attorney General joined an amicus brief pushing back on a business’ attempt to shut its doors on people because of who they love. Earlier this year, he condemned efforts by the Trump Administration to roll back critical anti-discrimination protections for patients and students. Last year, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition of attorneys general to defend Title VII’s anti-discrimination provisions, which were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of 2020. The Attorney General also co-led an effort to defend the right of non-binary Americans to access passports that accurately reflect their gender identity, a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ultimately held that the U.S. State Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its denial of a request by an intersex and nonbinary U.S. Navy veteran.

In filing the amicus, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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