Supreme Court Adoption Case Could Have Broad Nondiscrimination Impact

Legal experts say the impact of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia could go beyond gay rights and impact nondiscrimination protections more broadly

LGBTQ flag flies in front of the U.S. Supreme Court
Saul Leob/AFP via Getty Images

A lawsuit that pits religious freedom against gay rights — and has been percolating through the court system and national news for two years — is officially on the Supreme Court’s docket, NBC News reports.

Last month, the high court agreed to hear Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which on the surface is about whether faith-based child welfare organizations can reject LGBTQ families and others whom they consider to be in violation of their religious beliefs. However, legal experts say the case could have a significant impact on not just parental rights but also nondiscrimination protections more broadly.

Carlos Ball, a professor at Rutgers Law School and author of "The First Amendment and LGBT Equality: A Contentious History," said the "potential impact is huge."

"If the Supreme Court holds that religious organizations have a constitutional right to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws when they receive government money to conduct certain activities — such as placing foster care children with foster parents — that will significantly limit the impact and efficacy of civil rights laws," Ball said. "It will essentially allow anyone who has a religious basis for discriminating to claim that they are constitutionally exempt from the application of civil rights laws."

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