In coming weeks, the Supreme Court will issue its opinion on an important case affecting the right of LGBTQ people to become foster and adoptive parents. The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, and the background is simple. Fulton is the last name of Sharonell Fulton, a foster parent representing Catholic Social Services. Catholic Social Services would like to center its services on religious beliefs that would exclude LGBTQ people and still receive government-funded contracts. Philadelphia wishes to cancel its contract unless the agency complies with federal laws on equal rights.

Like Fulton, I am a Catholic foster parent, and I know that Fulton’s reasons for fostering are those that motivate every parent. From a place of mutual respect, I must advocate for my own family. I hope the Supreme Court rules against Catholic Social Services and allows Philadelphia to discontinue any contracts that are not equitable for all.

Catholic Social Services claims religious freedom is at stake. However, agencies can already exercise religion privately and do so in every state, including Maine. Today, there are kids who cannot access my home. After getting licensed, I learned some districts receive referrals from a Protestant program and attempted to register with that program. I was denied because I wasn’t part of their church and I’m unmarried. As a straight, stable, employed homeowner with a strong support system, I found this agency’s pleas for homes ludicrous, knowing they had prioritized religion over the safety of kids. If the court rules in favor of Catholic Social Services, the decision of who can parent will increasingly connect to the private practices of agencies within any region. Impacts may be further reaching than just foster care and adoption. In November, EdWeek advised superintendents nationwide that this case has potential for disruptions of church and state balances across social services, including education and health care.

Catholic Social Services has argued to the Supreme Court that agency social workers “wouldn’t know how to evaluate” a gay couple. To imply that Catholic social workers can’t recognize the value of an LGBTQ prospective parent plays to ignorant stereotypes about Catholic small-mindedness. To imply that parenting should be evaluated differently depending on sexuality is homophobic and offends many families within the Catholic Church – including my own family tree, which proudly includes some rainbow branches.

Since 2014, consistent polls by both secular and Catholic entities show that majority of Catholics – over 50 percent – support marriage equality. I hope this majority, and the Supreme Court (a bench stacked with Catholics) would also stand in support of parenting equality.

My children’s stories include a tween abandoned by his family the day he came out as gay. LGBTQ youth are at higher risk for self-harm and suicide within America’s foster care system. Catholic Social Services claims to serve all children regardless of orientation. How could they serve this child equitably with their current policies? The child welfare best practice of matching kids with homes that understand them is impossible if a system blackballs the homes who will understand them the best.

By siding with LGBTQ rights at the surface of this case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to address the underlying priority – to create a foster care system that opens doors to as many loving homes as possible, so that every child can someday find a family who loves them for who they are.


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