ACLU Asks Court to Hear From Child Advocates and LGBTQ Families in Foster Parents Case
June 08, 2018
PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today to intervene in a pending lawsuit brought by Catholic Social Services (CSS) against the city of Philadelphia over its policy barring agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples. The ACLU represents the Support Center for Child Advocates, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation and services to children in the foster care system, and Philadelphia Family Pride (PFP), a membership organization of LGBTQ parents and prospective parents.
Earlier this year, the city ended its practice of referring foster children to CSS because the agency refuses to license qualified same-sex couples to be foster parents or to place children with same-sex couples, which prompted CSS to respond with its lawsuit in the federal district court. The ACLU’s motion to intervene argues that the children and families served by Child Advocates and PFP would be harmed if CSS is successful in its lawsuit and asks the court for permission to participate in the lawsuit.
“The heart of this case is what is in the best interests of children,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Loving, supportive same-sex couples are willing to open their homes to kids in need, but CSS’s policy gives them one less avenue to make that happen. It would be a tremendous loss for our children if agencies were permitted to turn away good families based on failure to meet religious criteria.”
A motion to intervene allows someone who could be directly impacted by its outcome to join the lawsuit as a party. If the court grants the motion, the ACLU will be able to argue in court on behalf of Child Advocates and PFP to explain why a ruling in favor of CSS would harm children in the foster care system and prospective families who seek to care for them.
“Children in foster care in Philadelphia need every possible family that is ready, willing, and able to care for them,” said Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. “The Support Center for Child Advocates is entering the case to advocate for the best interests of all of Philadelphia’s children. We are in this for the kids. They need a voice in this dispute.”
CSS has asked the court for a preliminary injunction directing the city to continue to refer kids to CSS while the litigation proceeds. A hearing on CSS’s request for a preliminary injunction is currently scheduled for June 18.
“When families make the decision to open their hearts and homes to a child in need, they should not have to face discrimination by the child placing agencies,” said Stephanie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride. “Families that are prepared to help a child should be welcomed and supported, not turned away based on an agency’s religious disapproval.”
“When governments contract with private agencies to provide public child welfare services and pay them taxpayer dollars to do it, they may not permit them to turn away qualified families based on religious objections to those families,” said Leslie Cooper of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “That would violate the constitution.”
The Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride are represented by Leslie Cooper of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, Mary Catherine Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Fred T. Magaziner and Catherine V. Wigglesworth of Dechert LLP, and Frank P. Cervone of the Support Center for Child Advocates.
A copy of the motion filed today by the ACLU is available at this link.
by Lee Carpenter
wedding cakeThis week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That’s the famous “gay wedding cake” case, in which a very religious baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a Colorado same-sex couple.The couple filed a complaint with the state agency responsible for enforcing Colorado’s LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law. They won, and the baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that his right to the free exercise of his religion had been violated by the state.
So the baker won. And unfortunately, that’s led to a lot of folks on both sides claiming that all of America’s haters now have a “license to discriminate” as long as they cloak their animosity towards us in religious clothing.
That’s just not true. In fact, this ruling resolved none of the major issues in the case.
We didn’t know before this opinion whether a religious baker could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. We still don’t.
We didn’t know whether baking a cake is the kind of artistic expression that makes it protected by the First Amendment. We still don’t know the answer to that either, because the Supreme Court didn’t rule on those things.
All the opinion said was that in this case, some officials sounded like they were being disrespectful and dismissive of the baker’s religious belief, and that that was unacceptable.
All of the big issues in this case will have to be resolved at some point, but for now, the Court has decided that this isn’t the right case to make big, bold pronouncements about how the balance between religion and LGBT civil rights gets resolved.
So for now, go about your business, and go to whatever business you like.
Lee Carpenter is a Temple University Law School Professor. She and her partner Tiffany Palmer live in Mt. Airy with their 11 year-old kid.
Philadelphia Family Pride denounces the hateful rhetoric targeting our families in Representative Daryl
Metcalfe’s letter to Governor Tom Wolf in January 2018.
Rep. Metcalfe’s demand, signed on to by 24 of his colleagues, that birth certificates issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be changed to specify “Mother” and “Father” instead of the current “Parent/Parent” language serves no practical purpose other than to discriminate against families such as those that comprise Philadelphia Family Pride and other families around the commonwealth.
Birth certificates play a central role in identifying and recognizing who has the legal rights to make decisions for a child and U.S. Supreme Court decisions clearly establish that same-sex couples have equal rights with respect to their children’s birth certificates as opposite-sex couples. Insisting that gendered terminology be used to describe those parents is a waste of the Commonwealth’s time and resources.
Our families are diverse and varied, and the birth certificates of their children should reflect that what matters to our children is the love and support that are what truly makes a family, not the gender of their parents. Philadelphia Family Pride calls on Governor Wolf and other representatives to speak out against these attacks on our families and our children and applauds the steps already taken to ensure that our families are recognized on these important legal documents.
You can find your state representatives here.
Contact Gov. Wolf here.
Here are some excerpts (reposted with permission) from PFP parents and prospective parents on their reactions to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states. While we have more work to do, this is a time to celebrate!
E-mail Stephanie with your reactions and photos to her to add!
“Thrilled to be able to tell our son today that our family is not lesser! Thank you all who have worked so hard for this victory! I think I’m going to savor the moment, and expand my policy of Don’t. Read. The. Comments. to those four dissents. Love wins.” – Kerry Smith
“I remember in my early days as a professional activist I was in a meeting discussing the 20/20 plan (marriage equality in 20 states by 2020) and I was not alone in thinking it was overly optimistic and ambitious. So glad to be so wrong.
I hadn’t realized what a toll all the hate we’ve been faced with had taken until I opened a feed full of love. Let’s take a moment to celebrate this historic moment when history is moving in the right direction and let it fuel us to fight another day on all the other issues that still need work. #LoveWins #BlackLivesMatter” – Sandra Telep, PFP Vice-Chair
“Now it means so much more!” – Abby and Cheri, pictured with their marriage license in Delaware.
“In college back in 2003, I gave a speech in class about marriage equality. At that point no states had legalized same-sex marriage and the Netherlands were the only country in the entire world that allowed it. If I gave the same speech today I would get an F. And that is a good thing.” – Matthew Helm
“Legal at last with my husband Bryan Berchok. Thank you all for the support!” – John Ferraro
“What a great day for a great decision. Liz Petersen and I often comment that our role in this gay rights movement is to just do what we are doing. Raising our amazing kids and loving and caring for each other and our family. Other people around us see us struggling w/ homework, a new puppy, how much Pokemon should b allowed – all really important issues that all families have even straight ones. Being married allows life to keep going w/out having to explain who we are. Thanks SCOTUS.” – Shannon Dougherty
“So happy for my friends in my home state of Texas and elsewhere. Let’s celebrate today and get back in the fight for the rest of our rights tomorrow.” – Stephanie Haynes, PFP Director
“I’m going to like and share just about every gay thing I see today! Sorry, not sorry! You couldn’t tell me even just a few years ago that there’d be marriage equality in all 50 states by 2015. So thankful for those who tirelessly fought for our rights. #marriageequality #lovewins” – Sandy Gilardi, PFP board member
“Never thought I’d see this day in my life time! I can’t even tell you how over joyed I am.” – Doug Metcalfe, former PFP Chair
“Today history was made. Not because LGBT people fought and begged for it. It was made because the hearts and minds of our straight friends and family evolved and they took up the fight for us. It takes the majority. This is a victory for everyone. Thank you.” – Michael and Lou GrowMiller