Donald Trump holds an LGBT+ Pride flag given to him by supporter. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples in the name of religion.
Department of Justice attorneys submitted a 35-page brief to the Supreme Court asking it to rule in favour of Catholic Social Services (CSS), a Philadelphia-based adoption agency that insists it should be allowed to turn away same-sex couples under the First Amendment.
CSS has already been ruled against by a number of lower courts, but the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case earlier this year.
The United States government is not a party in the case, which means that the brief was submitted voluntarily, the Washington Blade reports.
Donald Trump administration continues to roll back LGBT+ rights with adoption brief.
In its brief, the Department of Justice says the United States has “a substantial interest” in Fulton v City of Philadelphia because the government believes “free exercise of religion” should be protected.
The Department of Justice notes that CSS will only work with married heterosexual couples or single people “because it adheres to the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman”.
“It regards all same-sex couples as unmarried,” the brief states.
Remarkably, the Department of Justice goes on to defend CSS, saying they will happily refer same-sex couples to other foster agencies.
Philadelphia’s actions also reflect unconstitutional hostility towards Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs.
Throughout the brief, the department argues that religious freedom must be protected above all else.
“Philadelphia’s actions also reflect unconstitutional hostility towards Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs,” the brief states.
The department goes on to argue that the city of Philadelphia “singled out religious organisations” for investigation and “suggested that religious beliefs are merely a pretext for discrimination.”
They also claim that Philadelphia “tried to persuade Catholic Social Services that its understanding of Catholic doctrine was outmoded and inconsistent with the views of Pope Francis, as the City understood them.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said that it is due to make a filing to the Supreme Court by August 13 in response to the Trump administration’s brief.
Activists fear that the Supreme Court’s conservative make-up could cause trouble for LGBT+ people.
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in February, activists expressed concern that it could set a dangerous precedent for LGBT+ parents.
The make-up of the Supreme Court has changed dramatically since it ruled in favour of equal marriage in 2015, with Donald Trump’s appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch likely shifting the court’s majority against LGBT+ rights.
In its court filings, Catholic Social Services asserts a constitutional right to use its faith-based criteria to turn away same-sex couples as prospective foster families while providing services for children in Philadelphia’s public foster care system.
The American Civil Liberties Union has previously intervened in the case, warning of the potential for a chilling effect on the rights of LGBT+ people.