ADL: Supreme Court Ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia Underscores Importance of Anti-Discrimination Law

New York, NY, June 17, 2021 … ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) expressed disappointment in response to today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services, which rejected the city of Philadelphia’s argument that it should not have to renew a foster care certification contract with an agency that refuses to serve same-sex couples.

However, the decision was narrow, and it is important to note that the Court focused on the details of the city’s contract and did not overrule a past Court precedent that would have created a broad license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. Governments can still enforce nondiscrimination provisions in contracts with private organizations as long as those provisions are neutral and religious agencies are not specifically targeted in enforcement. 

ADL led a broad coalition amicus brief in Fulton v. Philadelphia expressing concern about religious freedom claims being used as a sword to discriminate. Even though this narrow and fact-specific decision did not accept Catholic Social Services’ claim that their discriminatory position was permitted by the Free Exercise Clause, the broader concern remains. 

“The free exercise of religion is a fundamental constitutional right, but religious organizations should not be allowed to discriminate in how they implement government-funded contracts,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said. “ADL rejects the suggestion that there is an inherent dichotomy between religion and LGBTQ+ rights. LGBTQ+ people of faith have been among those most strongly advocating against discrimination in this case and others.”

Although this is a very narrow ruling, we must not lose sight of the fact that discrimination pervades the child welfare system throughout the country. LGBTQ+, Indigenous, Black and brown, religious minority, low income, and other youth and families with marginalized identities routinely face disparate access to resources and disparate outcomes. 

This ruling underscores the importance of passing two bills currently under consideration in Congress, the Equality Act and the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act. 

The Equality Act would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to anti-discrimination laws – many of which do not currently include these protections. This law would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodation, federally funded programs, and federal jury service. It would also expand and add protections for women, people of color, people of faith, and immigrants. The House has already passed the Equality Act. Contact your Senator here to encourage them to pass the Equality Act in the Senate. 

The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, recently introduced in Congress, would forbid federally-funded foster care and adoption agencies from discriminating against children, families, and individuals based on their religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. It would also ensure that young people in foster care receive culturally competent care.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of antisemitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.

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