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Sharonell Fulton et al. v. City of Philadelphia

Case Concerning Discrimination in Adoption

Key Date: October 10, 2019
Status: Pending before U.S. Supreme Court
Legal Team: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Type: Other LGBT Litigation

Fulton Case Overview:

In March 2018, the city of Philadelphia placed a call for more individuals and families to become foster parents, as its current system currently works with more than 6,000 children awaiting placement. Simultaneously, the city terminated a contract with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, claiming that the agency was discriminatory against LGBTQ people and those who don’t “abide by the agency’s teachings.” Becket Fund For Religious Liberty then filed suit on behalf of the agency in May of 2018.

Latest in the Case:

In July 2019 the Beckett Fund filed a petition seeking Supreme Court review in Sharonell Fulton et al. v. City of Philadelphia, which concerns whether child welfare agencies with government contracts may refuse to provide services to same-sex couples. Previously, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction sought by the parties that filed the case. The ruling marked the first time a federal appellate court has ruled that child welfare agencies with government contracts may not exclude same-sex couples or require any other religious test for the purpose of determining who may foster or adopt children.

Briefs opposing cert. before the U.S. Supreme Court are due from the City of Philadelphia and the intervenors represented by the ACLU on October 10, 2019, following an extension from the Court. 

Case History:

  • March 15, 2018The city of Philadelphia indicates it will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services, claiming it is discriminatory against LGBTQ people among others, and stops all referrals to the agency.
  • May 2018: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty files suit against the city in District Court.
  • June 5, 2018Becket files a motion to a temporary restraining order and a prelimary injunction to prevent the city from terminating its contract with CSS.
  • June 18, 2018: Judge Petrese B. Tucker holds a hearing on the motions in Philadelphia. Organizations Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride file a motion to intervene as defendants in the case.
  • July 13, 2018: The Court rules in favor of the City of Philadelphia in the case, denying child welfare agencies a “license to discriminate” against LGBTQ people and others by denying a motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The ruling marks the first time a federal court has ruled that child welfare agencies with government contracts may not exclude same-sex couples or require any other religious test for the purpose of determining who may foster or adopt children.
  • July 13, 2018: The child welfare agencies file a notice of appeal.
  • July 27, 2018: The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals denies a motion for injunction pending appeal.
  • August 30, 2018: U.S. Supreme Court denies a request for an emergency injunction, allowing pro-LGBTQ ruling to take effect.
  • November 6, 2018: The 3rd Circuit hears oral argument in this case.
  • April 22, 2019: The 3rd Circuit rules in favor of the City of Philadelphia in the case, upholding the lower court victory for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination.
  • July 22, 2019: The child welfare agency in the case requests review from the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  • October 10, 2019: Briefs opposing cert. before the U.S. Supreme Court are due from the City of Philadelphia and the intervenors represented by the ACLU, following an extension from the Court. 

Last Updated August 28, 2019

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction July 2018 Opinion Upholding Philadelphia Nondiscrimination Ordinance April 2019 3rd Circuit Opinion

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