Federal Judge Rules Christian Adoption Agency May Refuse Serving Same-Sex Couples

Federal Judge Rules Christian Adoption Agency May Refuse Serving Same-Sex Couples

Mae D'Agostino, a U.S. District Court judge, ruled in September that a Christian adoption firm based in Syracuse, N.Y., may refuse service to same-sex couples.

The federal judge said New Hope Family Services is not obligated to follow the New York State Human Rights Law clause, saying it is illegal to discriminate against sexual orientation in public accommodation places such as adoption agencies.

More Details About the Case

According to the report from Metro Weekly, the adoption agency argued it is refusing service to same-sex couples wishing to adopt a child since doing so contradicts its religious beliefs. The agency's refusal of service also includes heterosexual couples who are not legally wed.

The New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) countered that such policy by the adoption agency runs foul of the state's Human Rights Law. The office said it is illegal for such an agency to discriminate against clients on sexual orientation grounds.

Judge D'Agostino, however, disagreed. She argued the state could not obligate the adoption agency to help unmarried and gay couples adopt a child.

The OCFS lamented the judge's decision. It said, "discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated," and disclosed that it is "deeply disappointed" with the federal court ruling. The office also informed the Associate Press that it is reviewing what it would do next about the case.

Metro Weekly disclosed that the OCFS ordered New Hope Family Services in 2018 to modify its policy of refusing service to gay and unmarried couples. OCFS said the adoption agency should close if it defied the office's order.

In turn, New Hope Family Services reportedly solicited ADF's services and filed a lawsuit against the OCFS. The lawsuit claimed that the adoption agency's religious beliefs do not allow it to accommodate homosexuals or same-sex couples. It argued it is exempt from following the state's Human Rights Law due to such religious freedom.

In 2019, Judge D'Agostino the adoption agency's lawsuit. Consequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ordered the case returned to the trial court.

The following year, Judge D'Agostino released a temporary injunction order that kept OCFS from forcing the adoption agency to abide by the New York Human Rights Law. The federal court judge issued her final ruling on the case last month, which favored New Hope Family Services.

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Defendant's Side Issues Statement on the Ruling

Following the release of the court decision, the law firm that represented New Hope Family Services issued a statement. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) took the case on behalf of the adoption agency.

"The court's decision is great news for children waiting to be adopted and for the parents partnering with New Hope Family Services to provide loving, stable homes. New Hope is a private religious ministry that doesn't take a dime from the government. Shutting down an adoption provider for its religious beliefs - needlessly and unconstitutionally reducing the number of agencies willing to help - benefits no one, certainly not children," ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said in a press release.

Metro Weekly bared that ADF is a conservative law office "known for taking up cases arguing against recognition of LGBTQ rights." 

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