Charities Can Refuse Adoptions to Same-Sex Couples, Federal Court Rules

Charities Can Refuse Adoptions to Same-Sex Couples, Federal Court Rules
New Hope Family Services is a New York-based adoption agency that does not adopt out children to same sex or unmarried couples. (Courtesy of New Hope Family Services)
Alice Giordano

Privately run adoption agencies can refuse to adopt children out to same-sex couples, a panel of federal judges has ruled.

The decision was passed down in a case involving efforts by the state of New York to shut down a Christian-based adoption agency for refusing to adopt to assist gay couples.

New Hampshire Family Services also does not adopt children to unmarried couples.

The New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) said the agency’s policies were illegal under state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and launched efforts in 2018 to permanently bar the charity from performing adoptions.

A three-panel of U.S. District Court Justices, however, disagreed with the agency, ruling that New Hope Family Services’s policy was protected under free speech, a decision that echoed an earlier ruling by the court granting the charity temporary relief from the state’s actions.

“It is plainly a serious step to order an authorized adoption agency such as New Hope—operating without complaint for 50 years, taking no government funding, successfully placing approximately 1,000 children, and with adoptions pending or being supervised—to close all its adoption operations,” U.S. District Court Judge Reena Raggi ruled in granting the temporary injunction in 2020.

The Syracuse-based adoption agency won a permanent injunction from the court on Sept. 7, 2022.

It is similar to a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court last year that government agencies could not refuse to contract with private adoption agencies that refuse to adopt out to same-sex couples based on their religious principles.

The ruling was based on the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to exempt a Catholic adoption agency from its anti-discrimination policies.

The OCFS did not return phone calls about the ruling.

It released a brief, written statement saying they were deeply disappointed with the decision.

“OCFS maintains that discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated. We’re reviewing our options for next steps,” it said.

Christian organizations hailed the federal court’s ruling.

Mark Lipplemann, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom told The Epoch Times that the court ruling will help charities in other states under the threat of a government shutdown for having similar policies.

“All across the country, government officials are attempting to silence and sideline people of faith,“ said Lipplemann. ”Now, New Hope can continue to provide critical services to children in need of safe, loving homes without being forced to violate its religious convictions.”

Religious rights of private and nonprofit organizations are taking center stage in federal courts across the United States.

Last month, Christian Healthcare Centers filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission for enforcing a law against them that mandates they hire gay employees, prescribe cross-sex hormones to patient’s seeking to change their biological gender, and use gender ideology pronouns.

In the lawsuit, the religious-based health care center said it has always welcomed patients who are gay, but does not provide treatment specific to their sexual orientation.

“In effect, the law requires Christian Healthcare to check its religious faith at the clinic door—the very faith that motivates the clinic to open its doors to help those in need,” it wrote in its Aug. 29 complaint.

On Sept. 20, the Wyoming Rescue Mission filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s Equal Opportunity Act after a self-proclaimed non-Christian employee complained she was required to support Christian views while working at the homeless shelter’s thrift shop.

The state responded to her complaint by charging the charity with violating the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act and federal Civil Rights Act.

New Hope did not respond to requests for comment in its court victory. In pleadings it filed, the charity stated that it receives no government funding and has placed more than 1,000 children since 1965.

The Lifelong Adoptions network lists more than 80 adoption agencies across the United States that are LGBT friendly.

Alice Giordano is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times. She is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.