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Attorney General Josh Stein Defends Nondiscrimination Laws and the Rights of Same-Sex Couples at the Supreme Court

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, August 20, 2020

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law and the right of same-sex couples to be foster parents.

“Keeping our children safe is job one for both parents and the state,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m joining this case because no one should be prevented by their race, religion, or sexual orientation from offering a safe, loving home to a child who needs it.”

The amicus brief, filed by 23 attorneys general, argues that Philadelphia is entitled to require its own publicly contracted foster care agencies to follow the city’s nondiscrimination law and consider all qualified families seeking to care for children in need, without regard to prospective foster parents’ race, religion, or sexual orientation.

The lawsuit against Philadelphia was brought by a city contractor seeking to be exempt from the city’s policy because of its religious objection to considering same-sex couples as prospective foster care parents. In 2019, the Third Circuit unanimously rejected the foster care provider’s arguments that the First Amendment requires granting such exemptions.

Today’s brief argues that the government is entitled to pursue policies that best serve its residents’ needs in providing government-funded services, including policies that prohibit discrimination to provide vulnerable children with as many opportunities as possible to find loving homes. The brief argues that such requirements do not violate private contractors’ rights to free exercise of religion or free speech, because the nondiscrimination requirements apply only to the work such organizations choose to undertake as government contractors. Private organizations remain free to exercise their beliefs and rights to free speech outside the scope of that work.

The attorneys general share an interest in ensuring that all their residents have equal access to government services, including foster care services provided by government contractors. Such nondiscrimination policies are critical to the states’ ability to carry out their obligations to vulnerable children, ensure the deepest possible pool of welcoming foster families, and prevent the harm caused by discrimination against prospective foster families.

Attorney General Stein is joined in filing today’s brief by the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is available here.

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