Today, the Supreme Court ruled that private agencies receiving taxpayer funding can deny government services to LGBTQ+ people. This decision (Fulton v. City of Philadelphia) is a major setback for members of the LGBTQ+ community, who deserve equal justice under the law.
This case arose when the City of Philadelphia canceled a contract with a Roman Catholic foster care agency that refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents. Out Leadership firmly believes that decisions about foster care and adoption should prioritize children’s best interests – not religion. Denying same-sex couples from fostering or adopting children puts children at risk and delegitimizes LGBTQ+ families. In an interview with NBC News, Stacey Stevenson, CEO of Family Equality, commented that the ruling “will limit the pool of available homes and hamper kinship placements,” and “open the door to discrimination for any number of reasons – race, religion, sex – if based on religion.”
The Supreme Court’s decision is its first ruling on LGBTQ+ rights since the start of the Court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, and it could set a harmful precedent for the future of LGBTQ+ rights. Despite the Court’s previous rulings for marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges) and workplace equality (Bostock v. Clayton County), LGBTQ+ people are still discriminated against on many fronts. This ruling demonstrates that LGBTQ+ discrimination is ongoing, and can be protected by religious freedom. Many legal observers have pointed out that the Court has become increasingly likely to rule in favor of religious freedoms, citing a cake shop that was allowed to refuse wedding cakes to same-sex couples (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) and a church that was allowed to hold in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic (South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom). Today’s Court decision reaffirms this trend and potentially signals the current Court’s treatment of LGBTQ+ cases for the foreseeable future.
Without the passage of the Equality Act, which would ensure comprehensive, federal-level protections for LGBTQ+ people, the LGBTQ+ community is subject to discrimination in healthcare, housing, and access to credit, just to name a few areas. According to the ACLU, after state laws banning same-sex couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents were struck down, “those opposed to LGBTQ+ equality have increasingly sought a far-reaching constitutional license to discriminate in the name of religion.” Ruling in favor of an anti-LGBTQ+ foster care agency is a step forward in the wrong direction.
This decision also highlights a rising wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the United States. The Court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent for the future of LGBTQ+ civil rights, which remain threatened by state and federal laws discriminating against queer and transgender people, especially transgender youth. Earlier this month, Florida joined several states in banning transgender women and girls from participating in female sports teams. These discriminatory policies prevent LGBTQ+ people from accessing public spaces and emphasize the fact that LGBTQ+ people are still not equal in the United States.
Out Leadership, alongside its 80+ global member firms, continues to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality in business because we understand that equality matters to the bottom line. Our member firms affirm LGBTQ+ foster care and adoption and offer equal parental benefits policies to all their employees, as shown by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. Practices that actively recognize LGBTQ+ equality make employees feel more valued, increase returns on investments, and promote overall business growth. Through our leadership initiatives and advocacy work, Out Leadership will continue to push for inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity.
We also urge Congress to pass the Equality Act because federal legislation is necessary to recognize and uplift LGBTQ+ rights on a national scale. Has your company signed HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act? Learn how to join over 320 leading U.S. employers in supporting the Equality Act.