Attorney General Ford Defends Nondiscrimination Laws and the Rights of Same-Sex Couples to be Foster Parents in Supreme Court Brief

August 20th, 2020

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford joined 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the City of Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law and the right of same-sex couples to be foster parents.

The brief argues that Philadelphia is entitled to require its own publicly contracted foster care agencies to follow the city’s nondiscrimination law and consider all qualified families seeking to care for children in need, regardless of the prospective foster parents’ race, religion or sexual orientation.

“I fight for equality and justice for all,” said AG Ford. “Being a good parent should not be based on race or sexual orientation, and these vulnerable children need the deepest possible pool of welcoming foster families.”  

The brief supports the city and its nondiscrimination policy in a lawsuit brought by a city contractor seeking to be exempt from the policy because of its religious objection to considering same-sex couples as prospective foster care parents. In 2019, the Third Circuit unanimously rejected the foster care provider’s arguments that the First Amendment requires granting such exemptions.

The attorneys general argue that the government is entitled to pursue policies that best serve its residents’ needs in providing government-funded services, including policies that prohibit discrimination to provide vulnerable children with as many opportunities as possible to find loving homes. Such requirements, they argue, do not violate private contractors’ rights to free exercise of religion or free speech, because the nondiscrimination requirements apply only to the work such organizations choose to undertake as government contractors, and private organizations remain free to exercise their beliefs and rights to free speech outside the scope of that work.

The states share an interest in ensuring that all their residents have equal access to government services, including foster care services provided by government contractors. “To ensure the welfare of every child in state custody, we welcome all qualified prospective foster parents who volunteer to open their homes, including LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples,” the brief reads.

In addition to Nevada, attorneys general from the following states joined the coalition: California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Click here to see the filed brief.