Fulton v. Philadelphia, No. 18-2574 (3d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer informed Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services in March 2018 that two of its agencies would not work with same-sex couples as foster parents. Human Services considered such a policy a violation of the city’s anti-discrimination laws. When the agencies confirmed that, because of their religious views on marriage, they would not work with gay couples, Human Services ceased referring foster children to them. One agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), sued, claiming that the city violated its rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Speech Clauses, and under Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act. CSS will only certify foster parents who are either married or single; it will not certify cohabitating unmarried couples, and it considers all same-sex couples to be unmarried. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of CSS’s request for preliminary injunctive relief. Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception from that policy. CSS failed to make a persuasive showing that the city targeted it for its religious beliefs, or is motivated by ill will against its religion, rather than sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.