U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand led 23 Senate colleagues to submit an amicus brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, an impending Supreme Court case focused on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the foster care and adoption system. In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia learned that two of the agencies it partners with to provide foster care services to children in the public child welfare system would not allow same-sex couples to be foster parents, based on the agencies’ religious beliefs. The city subsequently stopped referring children to the agencies and informed them that city contracts prohibit such discrimination. One agency, Catholic Social Services, sued the city with claims that the right to free exercise of religion entitles it to a taxpayer-funded contract to perform a government service, even though it is unwilling to comply with the city’s requirement that contract agencies accept all qualified families. Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues are calling for an end to anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the adoption and foster care systems because it denies countless vulnerable children the opportunity to find a safe and loving home.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children in foster care right now and they deserve the chance to be raised by loving and caring parents, regardless of sexual identity or orientation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to lead the amicus brief in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to end the anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the foster care and adoption system that continues to prevent LGBTQ parents from adopting and fostering vulnerable children.”
“Government assumes a grave responsibility when it takes custody of children through the operation of the child welfare system. Its highest charge for children in its care is to always put their best interests first. Turning away a loving and qualified family because of a parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity hurts these children by denying or delaying their placement in loving homes. This brief, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Angie Craig spells out in sharp relief the government’s compelling interest in eliminating discrimination in the child welfare system and thus advancing the best interests of children. Family Equality is grateful for this leadership and this clarion call to the Supreme Court to do the right thing for vulnerable foster children in America,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Family Equality.
Senator Gillibrand was joined by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The effort was led in the House by Representative Angie Craig, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and the first lesbian mom to serve in Congress.
Senator Gillibrand is the lead sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF) Act to end discrimination against prospective adoptive and foster parents based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or religion. This legislation would also prohibit this kind of discrimination against children and youth in the child welfare system and would ensure that they are not subject to harmful practices, such as conversion therapy.