Court: Philadelphia Can Exclude Catholic Foster Agency That Won't Work With Gays

Philadelphia can exclude a Catholic foster agency from a city program because it discriminates against gay couples.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that the city of Philadelphia can bar a Catholic foster agency from an initiative that matches children with foster families because the Catholic group rejects working with gay couples, NBC News reports.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 ruling, decided that the Catholic Social Services failed to prove that their exclusion from the program amounted to religious persecution or violated their First Amendment rights. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote that the city's decision to exclude the group that discriminates against same-sex couples was to prevent a "clear violation" of city laws against discrimination of same-sex couples.

“The question in our case is ... whether CSS was treated differently because of its religious beliefs,” Ambro said. “Based on the record before us, that question has a clear answer: no.”

The lawyer representing the agency, Lori Windham, called the court's decision "devastating" for the hundreds of foster children waiting for foster families while in the CSS's care. “We will continue this fight,” she said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney praised the court’s decision.

“Philadelphia is a welcoming, inclusive city that values the diversity of its residents,” he said. “This policy is the embodiment of those values.”

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