Our Democracy Hinges on Decision in Fulton Case
Queer or non-queer, if you value democracy, civil rights and health care, nothing’s as scary as the Supreme Court.
With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, there’s the reasonable concern that the court (with a 6-3 conservative, Republican majority) might rule in favor of Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.
There’s the (not unreasonable) fear that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance if the court rules in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Then, there’s Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that hasn’t gotten much attention in the midst of the election and the pandemic. But that case could have a profound, life-changing impact on the LGBTQ community and many other marginalized groups.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia on Nov. 4. As the Blade has reported, the issue of the case is whether Catholic Social Services (CSS), a taxpayer funded, religious-affiliated foster care agency, can reject same-sex couples who want to be foster parents (because of their sexual orientation).
Nothing stings more than rejection. Especially, if you’re being rejected by the church you love.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics working for LGBTQ equality, remembers the moment when the phone rang.
She and her spouse, who live in Massachusetts, wanted to adopt a child. “We’re Catholic. So we started with Catholic Charities,” Duddy-Burke told me in a telephone interview.
The couple, who celebrated a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and were legally married in Massachusetts in 2004, wondered why they didn’t hear back from the agency. Finally, one day a Catholic Charities social worker called them. “She said she was calling from her own car during her lunch break,” Duddy-Burke said. “Because she didn’t want [the agency] to know she was talking to us.”
The agency worker told the couple that Catholic Charities wouldn’t place children with same-sex couples. “She said she disagreed with the policy. But that was the policy,” Duddy-Burke said.
Duddy-Burke’s story has a happy ending: She and her wife (going through a state agency) adopted two daughters. Their older daughter (born drug-addicted, and nine months old when they adopted her) has just started college. Their younger daughter, adopted when she was five, is now a junior in high school.
“Such a rejection was so alienating – dehumanizing,” Duddy-Burke said, “to be rejected – not for our experience or qualifications, but because of who we are!”
If the couple had been a part of an “institutional” church, they might have lost their connection with the church, Duddy-Burke said. But because “we are a part of a small, independent Catholic community that provided love and support,” she said, they maintained their faith.
But, a lot of people don’t have that kind of support, Duddy-Burke added.
The all-too-likely possibility that the Supreme Court will rule that a taxpayer-funded, religious-affiliated foster care agency can reject same-sex couples as foster parents (on the basis of sexual orientation) for religious reasons makes me question my faith in democracy.
Why should we be so concerned about Fulton v. City of Philadelphia? Because allowing agencies that receive taxpayer funding to discriminate against LGBTQ people or any other group for religious reasons violates the separation of church and state.
There are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system who are waiting adoption, according to the U.S. Department of Human Services. These kids, desperately needing parental love and support, are the innocent pawns of homophobia.
In the age of marriage equality, 11 states have banned same-sex adoptions. Yet, ironically, same-sex couples are seven times more likely than opposite-sex couples to raise an adopted or foster child, according to UCLA School of Law Williams Institute.
A majority of Americans (61 percent) support same-sex marriage, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.
If the Supreme Court rules that CSS can forbid same-sex couples from adopting children because of its religious affiliation, the floodgates to discrimination of all types against many groups of people will be opened. Everyone from landlords to employers to hospitals could discriminate, based on their religious beliefs, against not only queers, but Muslims, Black people, atheists – anyone who doesn’t fit the so-called norm.
Let’s hope that justice will prevail – that the court will uphold the separation of church and state. Our life as a democracy depends on it.