The U.S. Supreme Court, seen on October 20, heard a dispute Wednesday in which a Catholic adoption agency argues that the city of Philadelphia discriminates by steering potential adoptive parents away to other agencies. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday that pits Philadelphia and the LGBT community against a Catholic adoption agency and religious rights supporters who say the city discriminates based on faith.
Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia is the first significant test for the Supreme Court with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was questioned during her confirmation process about her views on faith and the LGBT community.
The city contracts with private providers for foster care services, but refuses to place children in homes of families that work with Catholic Social Services after learning the agency would not certify same-sex married couples as foster parents.
Officials argue the CSS policy violates the city's anti-discrimination rules. That led the agency and two clients, Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, to sue, arguing they were excluded because of their religious beliefs.
They took the case to the Supreme Court after the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant an injunction to keep the agency's foster care program open with the city.
During aguments Wednesday, the high court's liberal justices -- Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor -- appeared sympathetic to the argument by city attorney Neal Katyal that a ruling for CSS could be applied to nearly all government services.
Conservative justices said it appeared to them the city may have singled out CSS because of its beliefs, instead of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents who want to adopt.
"If we are honest about what is really going on here, it's not about ensuring that same-sex couples in Philadelphia have the opportunity to be foster parents," Justice Samuel Alito said. "It's the fact the city can't stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old fashion view about marriage."
In an op-ed published in The Washington Post Wednesday, Simms-Busch said children waiting to be adopted in Philadelphia could be negatively affected if CSS is denied.
"Faith-based foster care programs will face an existential choice: surrender your beliefs or surrender your ministry," she wrote.
A decision in the case is expected by the end of June.