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ACLU Asks Court to Hear From Child Advocates and LGBTQ Families in Foster Parents Case

ACLU Asks Court to Hear From Child Advocates and LGBTQ Families in Foster Parents Case

June 08, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today to intervene in a pending lawsuit brought by Catholic Social Services (CSS) against the city of Philadelphia over its policy barring agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples. The ACLU represents the Support Center for Child Advocates, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation and services to children in the foster care system, and Philadelphia Family Pride (PFP), a membership organization of LGBTQ parents and prospective parents.

Earlier this year, the city ended its practice of referring foster children to CSS because the agency refuses to license qualified same-sex couples to be foster parents or to place children with same-sex couples, which prompted CSS to respond with its lawsuit in the federal district court. The ACLU’s motion to intervene argues that the children and families served by Child Advocates and PFP would be harmed if CSS is successful in its lawsuit and asks the court for permission to participate in the lawsuit.

“The heart of this case is what is in the best interests of children,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Loving, supportive same-sex couples are willing to open their homes to kids in need, but CSS’s policy gives them one less avenue to make that happen. It would be a tremendous loss for our children if agencies were permitted to turn away good families based on failure to meet religious criteria.”

A motion to intervene allows someone who could be directly impacted by its outcome to join the lawsuit as a party. If the court grants the motion, the ACLU will be able to argue in court on behalf of Child Advocates and PFP to explain why a ruling in favor of CSS would harm children in the foster care system and prospective families who seek to care for them.

“Children in foster care in Philadelphia need every possible family that is ready, willing, and able to care for them,” said Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. “The Support Center for Child Advocates is entering the case to advocate for the best interests of all of Philadelphia’s children. We are in this for the kids. They need a voice in this dispute.”

CSS has asked the court for a preliminary injunction directing the city to continue to refer kids to CSS while the litigation proceeds. A hearing on CSS’s request for a preliminary injunction is currently scheduled for June 18.

“When families make the decision to open their hearts and homes to a child in need, they should not have to face discrimination by the child placing agencies,” said Stephanie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride.  “Families that are prepared to help a child should be welcomed and supported, not turned away based on an agency’s religious disapproval.”

“When governments contract with private agencies to provide public child welfare services and pay them taxpayer dollars to do it, they may not permit them to turn away qualified families based on religious objections to those families,” said Leslie Cooper of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “That would violate the constitution.”

The Support Center for Child Advocates and Philadelphia Family Pride are represented by Leslie Cooper of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, Mary Catherine Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Fred T. Magaziner and Catherine V. Wigglesworth of Dechert LLP, and Frank P. Cervone of the Support Center for Child Advocates.

A copy of the motion filed today by the ACLU is available at this link.

Masterpiece Cakeshop – What it Means for You (Spoiler Alert: Not Much)

by Lee Carpenter 
wedding cakeThis week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That’s the famous “gay wedding cake” case, in which a very religious baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a Colorado same-sex couple.The couple filed a complaint with the state agency responsible for enforcing Colorado’s LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law. They won, and the baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that his right to the free exercise of his religion had been violated by the state.

So the baker won. And unfortunately, that’s led to a lot of folks on both sides claiming that all of America’s haters now have a “license to discriminate” as long as they cloak their animosity towards us in religious clothing.

That’s just not true. In fact, this ruling resolved none of the major issues in the case.

We didn’t know before this opinion whether a religious baker could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. We still don’t.

We didn’t know whether baking a cake is the kind of artistic expression that makes it protected by the First Amendment. We still don’t know the answer to that either, because the Supreme Court didn’t rule on those things.

All the opinion said was that in this case, some officials sounded like they were being disrespectful and dismissive of the baker’s religious belief, and that that was unacceptable.

All of the big issues in this case will have to be resolved at some point, but for now, the Court has decided that this isn’t the right case to make big, bold pronouncements about how the balance between religion and LGBT civil rights gets resolved.

So for now, go about your business, and go to whatever business you like.

Lee Carpenter is a Temple University Law School Professor. She and her partner Tiffany Palmer live in Mt. Airy with their 11 year-old kid.

Celebrate Pride with PFP! (List of Events, June 2018)

Lots going on in June 2018 in Philadelphia to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. We’ve included both events that we are organizing (the picnic on the 23rd!) and others that are in the community that we are planning to attend. Hope you can make it to some or all of them!

Pride Month Kickoff and Pride in the Plaza Celebration – Thursday, June 7th 5-8pm
Join the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs as we celebrate Pride Month with a City Hall flag raising ceremony and kickoff party on June 7th!

The official City of Philadelphia flag raising with the Mayor and City Council will occur from 5-6 pm followed by a huge party in the City Hall courtyard 6-8pm featuring food trucks, live performances, DJs, dancing as well as HIV testing, voter registration and legal expungement services! 

Family Festival Pride Celebration at the Please  Touch Museum – Saturday, June 9th, 9am
The Please Touch Museum is holding their first ever Pride event. Meet up with other PFP families at the torch in the main hall at 9am. RSVP on the Facebook event so we know to look for you! Families needing financial assistance to attend should reach out to stephanie@phillyfamilypride.org for discounted tickets.

20th Annual Philadelphia Dyke March – Saturday, June 9th, 3pm
Rally: Kicking it off at 3:00 pm at Kahn Park (11th and Pine streets); Free iced coffee will be available thanks to our friends at Good Karma!
March: Step off and take to the damn streets promptly at 4:00 pm!
After march: Chill in the park and have some free water ice as Philly’s Dyke performers rock the mic for the rest of the day! As always, PDM brings you electrifying speakers and performers, awesome entertainment and of course an opportunity to take over Philly’s streets!

Philly Pride Run 5k and 1.5 miler – Sunday, June 10th, 10:30am
Celebrate Philly Pride 2018 with Philly’s inaugural Philly Pride Run 5K Race AND the original 1.5 miler Fun Run down the historic Pride Parade route in Center City Philadelphia! Click the link for more details. The 1.5 mile race leads the Pride Parade!

Philly Pride Parade & Festival – Sunday, June 10th, 10am-4pm
March with PFP in the Philly Pride parade. Meet up in the area of 13th and Locust at 10:30am. March steps off at 11:30am. Look for the PFP banner and be sure to RSVP on the Facebook event or email us so we know to look for you. The parade route is 1.3 miles long and ends at Penn’s Landing (where you can take public transit or walk back to the beginning or continue into the festival.)

PFP will also again host the Family Zone at the Pride Festival at Penn’s Landing with crafts, books and blocks for kids and a place to rest for adults. Volunteer with PFP to get free admission to the festival! This year’s headline entertainer is Margaret Cho!  Email stephanie@phillyfamilypride.org to volunteer.

Drag Queen Story Time – Tuesday, June 12th, 4:30pm
Join the Free Library of Philadelphia for one of their many Pride events in June for a drag queen story time at the Fumo Library in South Philly with Brittany Lynn. See the full list of Free Library Events around the city for Pride.

Intergenerational Panel – Wednesday, June 19th, 6pm
This is not to be missed! Hosted at the main branch of the Free Library in the Skyline room, this event will be a discussion on LGBTQIA+ community, history, identity, and what Pride means to folx from a multitude of generations. See the list of other Pride Month events from the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs.

Family Pride Picnic and Arts Festival – Saturday, June 23rd, 11am-4pm, Lovett Park
Join hosts Philly Family Pride, Mt. Airy Art Garage and the Mayor’s Office for LGBT Affairs for a picnic and arts festival in the newly renovated Lovett Park on Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy as we celebrate pride with crafts, entertainers, FOOD TRUCKS, games, art and more. Special guests include Mayor Kenney, LGBT Affairs Director Amber Hikes, members of City Council and more to be announced. Rain date June 30th.  More.

Phillies Pride Night  – Thursday, June 28th, 7pm
This year’s Pride Night at Citizen’s Bank Park will take place in a game vs. the Washington Nationals and is sponsored by Giant Food Stores. The first 1,500 fans who purchase tickets to this event will receive a coupon for a Phillies rainbow flag. Click the link above for tickets. PFP families who want to sit together/meet up should email stephanie@phillyfamilypride.org. Tickets are discounted $4 when using promo code PRIDE.