Sharonell Fulton et al. v. City of Philadelphia
Case Concerning Discrimination in Adoption and Foster CareKey Date: June 17, 2021 • Supreme Court Ruling
Legal Team: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Type: Religious Exemption Cases: Child Welfare Issues
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:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 17, 2021 that governments can enforce 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.
- March 15, 2018: The 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, 2018: Becket 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 filed by the City of Philadelphia and the intervenors represented by the ACLU, following an extension from the Court.
- October 28, 2019: A reply brief is filed before the U.S. Supreme Court by the child welfare agency in the case.
- October 30, 2019: The petition in the case is distributed for conference by the U.S. Supreme Court, but later rescheduled. The petition is distributed for conference and rescheduled repeatedly in the remaining weeks of 2019.
- February 24, 2020: The U.S. Supreme Court grants review in the case and will hear oral argument in the fall of 2020.
- November 4, 2020: The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments. Read the full legal analysis from our Chief Counsel, Jon Davidson.
- June 17, 2021: The U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling, stating that governments can enforce 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.
Last Updated November 2020U.S. Supreme Court Docket April 2019 3rd Circuit Opinion