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Case Name Marouf v. Azar PR-DC-0017
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00378-APM ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection Take Care
Attorney Organization Lambda Legal
Case Summary
On February 20, 2018, a married same-sex couple filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the United States Conference of ... read more >
On February 20, 2018, a married same-sex couple filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for violating the Establishment Clause (U.S. Const. Amend I) and the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Substantive Due Process clauses.

Plaintiffs claim that the Federal Defendants unconstitutionally provided taxpayer funds to USCCB (and their sub-grantees) to administer federal child welfare services for unaccompanied refugee children, as they granted these funds fully knowing that USCCB discriminates against same-sex couples seeking to foster or adopt children through these programs. Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief from Defendants admitting to their constitutional violations, and injunctive relief requiring Federal Defendants to ensure Plaintiffs can apply to these programs without discrimination and with adequate safeguards to prevent any use of religious or other criteria to exclude applicants based on their sexual orientation, sex, or the same-sex character of their marriage. They also sought nominal monetary damages and reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. This case was assigned to Judge Amit P. Mehta.

In February 2017, Plaintiffs, sought to foster a child through Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, a subgrantee of the USCCB under the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Program and the Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) Program. After the Catholic Chartiy realized that the plaintiffs were a same-sex couple that did not “mirror the holy family,” their application was denied. Plaintiffs immediately reported this discrimination to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), but did not receive a response until mid April 2017. ORR’s response did not address the questions and only asked for the name of the staffer who allegedly discriminated against her and her wife. Plaintiffs provided this information in early May 2017 and received a “thank you” note the next day, but did not receive any further communication from either ORR or the Catholic Charity.

In March 2018, about one month after their initial filing, Plaintiffs amended the complaint to add the National LGBT Bar Association as a plaintiff. The Association is a professional membership-based organization comprised of more than 10,000 members of the legal community who support LGBT rights. They joined the suit on behalf of their members who were federal taxpayers who contributed to the general revenues from which Congress appropriated funds to the child welfare programs at issue in this case. They objected to paying for federally funded child welfare services that were provided in a discriminatory manner based on religious principles to which they did not subscribe.

In May 2018, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. They claimed that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing because their alleged injury was not fairly traceable to the government’s challenged conduct, would not be redressable by a favorable decision, and that they did not have taxpayer standing to assert an Establishment Clause claim. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, and oral argument was set for late November 2018.

After the argument, parties were instructed to submit a joint status report within two weeks of the hearing. The first status report was submitted on December 14, 2018, and the second was scheduled to be submitted a month later. However, the lapse of appropriations for the federal government in early January 2019 derailed this plan. The next joint status report, submitted on February 8, 2019, indicated that while parties engaged in a good-faith effort to reach a settlement, they remained unable to resolve their issues at that time. In mid-February 2019, the court issued an order stating that the proceedings for Defendants’ motion to dismiss would go forward, while encouraging the parties to continue their settlement discussions.

On June 12, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court agreed that none of the plaintiffs had taxpayer standing to assert an Establishment Clause violation, and as that was the only claim asserted by the National LGBT Bar Association, they were dismissed from the case. The married couple, however, had sufficient individual standing to pursue all three causes of action, and therefore the remainder of the Defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied. 391 F.Supp.3d 23.

As of March 17, 2020, the parties were still engaged in discovery.

Elise Coletta - 07/14/2019
Cedar Hobbs - 03/17/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Administration for Children and Families
Office of Refugee Resettlement (within the Administration for Children and Families)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Plaintiff Description Individual Plaintiffs Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin, a married lesbian couple; the National LGBT Bar Association, a non-profit membership-based 501(c)(6) professional association comprised of more than 10,000 members of the legal community supportive of LGBT rights.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Lambda Legal
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/20/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
1:18-cv-00378 (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Monetary Damages [ECF# 1]
PR-DC-0017-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/20/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Monetary Damages [ECF# 21]
PR-DC-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/22/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Status Report [ECF# 38]
PR-DC-0017-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Status Report [ECF# 44]
PR-DC-0017-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 48] (391 F.Supp.3d 23) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0017-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/12/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Mehta, Amit Priyavadan (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0004 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chin Chee, Heaven Chanel (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Choe, Kenneth Y. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Dagogo-Jack, Alali (California) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0001 | PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-0005 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Ellsworth, Jessica Lynn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0001 | PR-DC-0017-0005 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Fleury, Jennifer A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-9000
Gendall, Michael David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-9000
Gliksberg, Jamie Avra (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Huang, James Anthony (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0005 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Kleiman, Daryl Lian (New York) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Quinn, Brendan C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Stanton, Ann (Colorado) show/hide docs
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Taylor, Camilla B. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0001 | PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-0005 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Upton, Kenneth Dale Jr (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0001 | PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-0005 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Welch, Russell (Texas) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003
DeJulius, Leon F. Jr. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Dick, Anthony J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-9000
Goetz, John D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-9000
Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003
Lynch, Jason C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-9000
Powers, James R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-9000
Raimer, David T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0017-0002 | PR-DC-0017-0003 | PR-DC-0017-9000

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