According to a study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 114,000 same-sex couples are raising children right now. The vast majority of these parents are women, although some 28,000 of the couples are men. 

There are multiple contributing factors (finding a surrogate bio mother or father, a donor egg or sperm, the overall expense) that result in same-sex couples being seven times more likely to adopt or foster children than their different-sex counterparts. Breaking the statistics down even further, cisgender lesbian, bisexual and queer women of color are most likely to want to raise children. 

Perhaps one of the lead plaintiffs in the Supreme Court ruling of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (a cisgender woman of color) could pick up a few tips on compassion from the very people she seeks to deny adoption and foster approval to.

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia has made national headlines. It’s a complicated case, with both the right and the left calling it a victory of sorts.  

A breakdown of the case is as follows: the contract between an area Catholic Social Services (CSS) and the city of Philadelphia was suspended because of CSS’s religion-based refusal to work with potential parents from the LGBTQ community. 

The organization, and two of its members, Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, claimed they reserved the right to refuse foster parent status to anyone on the basis of their religious beliefs. 

The decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court is a mixed bag.

On June 17, SCOTUS unanimously ruled the city of Philadelphia cannot refuse to work with a faith-based agency because it will not certify same-sex couples as foster parents. At the same time, in the 9-0 decision, the Court ruled that governments can enforce LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, as long as they do so neutrally, but that the city of Philadelphia was not neutral in its application of its nondiscrimination laws.

The Human Rights Campaign offered this explanation via Twitter: 

“SCOTUS did not rule that there is a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. SCOTUS ruled, in one single case in Fulton, that Philadelphia did not apply the law in a neutral, generally applicable way because a commissioner had sole discretion to issue exemptions. To be clear, non-discrimination laws are enforceable against all, as long as those laws are enforced in a neutral and generally applicable way. That said, today’s news is a reminder that we still have further to go to ensure that LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and even people of faith are explicitly protected from discrimination under the law.”

“When child welfare agencies deny service to same-sex couples, it stigmatizes LGBTQ people,” says Chris Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “Today’s ruling underscores the importance of governments and agencies to have inclusive non-discrimination laws and policies that protect the rights of LGBTQ people.” 

The priorities of individuals like Fulton are fundamentally skewed in that they limit the amount of foster homes and families available to orphans or foster children. This lawsuit was viewed by many as having been about CSS and not about the children. 

Susan Shaw, a writer for Ms. Magazine, responded to the court ruling with the following statement: “Its implicit message underlines the exclusion and debasement queer people experience at the hands of many religious people and institutions.”

“We know there is more work that must be done to ensure that the best interest of the child is always prioritized, including through family reunification,” HRC President Alphonso David replied. “And there is more work to be done to ensure that LGBTQ people do not face discrimination anywhere in the country in every aspect of public life—our next step is to pass the Equality Act.”

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