The city of Philadelphia won’t send foster children to agencies known to have anti-gay beliefs. That’s a good thing, especially since it prevents kids who may end up being LGBTQ from being in families that will never accept them. But one local Republican says the rule is motivated by “anti-religious” ideology.
When I first read this op-ed by Rep. Mike Kelly, a GOP House member from Pennsylvania, I thought he was essentially admitting that “religious” was code for “anti-gay.” I thought he made an inadvertent mistake. Turns out it wasn’t a mistake at all.
In true desperate fashion, Kelly compared a reasonable policy that helps kids to “separating families” at the Mexican border. He also claimed — falsely — that the policy was against religion.
There has been much talk about family separation in the news lately. Anyone concerned about this issue should be deeply troubled by the way in which the city of Philadelphia is cruelly separating foster children from loving foster families — all because the city disagrees with the Catholic Church’s religious beliefs about marriage.
A judge in Philadelphia will decide whether the city can continue using these vulnerable children as culture war pawns. The same judge has already refused to grant temporary relief, which means that the city may continue to keep kids from being placed with available and loving homes while the judge considers the case.
The city, of course, said nothing about religion. The policy only states that foster care agencies the city works with can’t discriminate against same-sex couples. It’s the Christian Right — and Rep. Kelly — who claim that two those things are synonymous. As if there could never be a faith-based foster agency that cares primarily about putting kids in good, safe homes regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation.
The city is taking that non-discrimination policy seriously. They suspended a contract with at least one foster care agency that refused to work with same-sex couples, and that decision was upheld by a federal judge last month.
U.S. District Court Judge Petrese B. Tucker found that the city did not violate the religious liberties of Catholic Social Services (CSS) when it suspended its contract with the agency for foster-care services after discovering that the agency would not work with same-sex couples.
The Department of Human Services had a legitimate interest in ensuring “that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents,” Tucker wrote in a decision Friday denying CSS’s request for a temporary restraining order to resume its work for the city.
The city welcomed the news.
It’s not hypocritical to say more foster parents are needed while also breaking a contract with an agency that discriminates against potential clients.
The Catholic foster care agency appealed the decision, but I doubt they will get a different result this time around. This policy is pretty clearly in place to protect children, not punish religious people.
Kelly has obviously never considered what happens to gay kids who grow up in a fiercely anti-gay family. The suffering stays with them for a long time. The city has an obligation to make sure that doesn’t happen to children in their care. If faith-based foster agencies are more interested in matching kids with families without letting their bigotry get in the way, more power to them. But if they’re unable to do that, the city should avoid them at all costs.
(Screenshot via YouTube)