A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a New York-based Christian family services agency won’t have to provide adoption services to unmarried or same-sex couples.
The Albany district court had originally dismissed the Christian agency’s lawsuit in 2019, but the court issued a temporary order in October 2020 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in its favor and sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
New Hope Family Services — a 60-year-old nonprofit adoption and temporary-foster-placement agency and pregnancy resource center in Syracuse — filed a federal lawsuit against the New York State Office of Children and Family Services in 2018 after officials told the faith-based agency to revise its “discriminatory and impermissible” policy or shut down the adoption program.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is providing free legal assistance for New Hope. They are an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
“The state’s attempt to shutter New Hope did nothing other than violate core rights protected by the First Amendment—the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith,” Roger Brooks, senior counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said.
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino in Albany wrote that New Hope succeeded on the merits of its First Amendment claim against the state.
The court’s opinion states, “New Hope has succeeded on the merits of its First Amendment claim against OCFS” and “the balance of the hardships is in New Hope’s favor; it faces harm to its rights under the First Amendment and is subject to closure if the Court does not issue a permanent injunction. OCFS and the state, in contrast, do “‘not have an interest in the enforcement of an unconstitutional law.’” Meanwhile, “a permanent injunction will not disserve the public interest as ‘securing First Amendment rights is in the public interest.’”
New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman said every child deserves a home with a “loving mother and father who are committed to each other.”
“It’s regrettable that New York ever threatened to shut down our adoption services, through which we have placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began as an adoption agency in 1965,” Jerman said. “We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer.”
The Associated Press reports the NY Office of Children and Family Services said in a prepared statement: that it was “deeply disappointed with the decision and maintains that discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated. We’re reviewing our options for next steps.”
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