PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A dispute involving Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services and the city’s foster care system will be heard by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a dispute over a Philadelphia Catholic agency that won’t place foster children with same-sex couples.
In the shadow of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Overbrook Farms, Sharonell Fulton has helped raise 40 foster children.
Her name is now front and center in a high-profile battle set to play out at the Supreme Court between Catholic Social Services and the City of Philadelphia.
Fulton did not want to show her face, but still spoke with Eyewitness News.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and I think many children have suffered as a result of this litigation, many children,” Fulton said.
The dispute erupted a couple of years ago due to Catholic Social Services’ policy not to place children with same-sex couples. The city rescinded its contract with the agency.
Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Law Firm out of Washington, D.C., represents Catholic Social Services.
“What it’s asking is that it have the freedom to follow its faith and not be forced to make written certifications about marriage that are contrary to its religious beliefs about marriage,” Windham said.
The city released a statement, highlighting an appellate court’s finding that its decision wasn’t based on religious beliefs. They wrote, in part, “The City believes that the ruling from the Third Circuit affirming the City’s ability to uphold nondiscrimination policies was correct and will now prepare to demonstrate this to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Speaking with reporters earlier Monday, Mayor Jim Kenney thought with new leadership, the church may have a change of heart in pursuing the litigation.
“I’m hopeful that this new bishop, who seems to be extremely sensitive and understanding, may have a different approach than the past one,” Kenney said of Archbishop Nelson Perez.
Eyeing the composition of the Supreme Court, Villanova Law Professor Michael Moreland made a prediction.
“I think the city is likely to lose,” Moreland said.
For Fulton, she remains upset.
“It upset me that they refused to honor the contract and let Catholic Social Services do their job. That’s what upset me,” Fulton said.