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Supreme Court rules Catholic adoption agency can refuse LGBT couples

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia that refuses to certify same-sex couples. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia that refuses to certify same-sex couples. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

June 17 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia has a First Amendment right to refuse same sex couples.

The city of Philadelphia refused to contract with Catholic Social Services based on anti-discrimination rules since the agency would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents. The agency and two of its clients, Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, sued the city, arguing they were excluded due to their religious beliefs.

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The court ruled unanimously Thursday in favor of CSS and its clients, saying the city could make an exception to its non-discrimination rules to allow CSS to exercise its religious beliefs.

"The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment," the court held in the opinion delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts. "The city's actions burdened CSS's religious exercise by forcing it either to curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs."

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The court also noted that there are other private foster agencies in Philadelphia that will certify same-sex couples.

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The decision overturns the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's opinion in favor of the city. Oral arguments for the Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia case began in November.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., took to Twitter to express her disappointment in the verdict.

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"This is such a disappointing ruling from SCOTUS in Fulton v. Philadelphia," Jayapal tweeted. "This case isn't about religious freedom -- it's about discrimination against LGBTQ+ families who want to give foster children a loving home. Congress must respond by immediately passing the Equality Act."

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