Metro Weekly

Christian Adoption Agency Can Discriminate Against Gay Couples

Federal judge rules New Hope Family Services is exempt from the New York State Human Rights Law.

Adoption agency with “Closed if you are LGBTQ” sign – Photo: Craig Whitehead, via Unsplash.

A federal judge ruled last month that New Hope Family Services, a Christian adoption agency, can continue refusing service to same-sex and unmarried couples in accordance with its stated religious beliefs.

U.S. District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino said the Syracuse-based agency is exempt from the New York State Human Rights Law clause that bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation.

New Hope Family Services claims it can’t place children with same-sex or unmarried couples for religious reasons. But the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) argued the agency’s rules are illegal under the New York State Human Rights Law, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

However, D’Agostino dismissed OCFS’ claim, ruling that New York can’t force the adoption agency to allow gay or unmarried couples to adopt.

OCFS said in a statement to The Associated Press that it was reviewing its next steps.

The office said it was “deeply disappointed with the decision and maintains that discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated,” the AP reported. In the meantime, New Hope can continue to refuse to place children with adoptive or foster families whose lifestyles do not conform to its religious views, including same-sex couples, divorced couples, or unmarried individuals.

The conservative legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented New Hope Family Services and is known for taking up cases arguing against recognition of LGBTQ rights, celebrated the decision in a press release after the decision.

“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,” ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said. “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.”

In late 2018, OCFS told New Hope to amend its policy or shut down the adoption program, and New Hope responded by filing a federal lawsuit, arguing that the agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage should exempt it from having to abide by the New York State Human Rights Law.

The following year, D’Agostino dismissed New Hope’s suit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit returned the case to trial court. In 2020, D’Agostino issued a temporary injunction preventing OCFS from attempting to enforce the Human Rights Law against New Hope before issuing her final judgment in favor of the adoption agency last month.

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