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Case Name Fulton v. City of Philadelphia FA-PA-0016
Docket / Court 2:18-cv-02075 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On May 17, 2018, a Catholic foster care and social services agency and {} filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, against the City of Philadelphia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and by conservative public interest organization the ... read more >
On May 17, 2018, a Catholic foster care and social services agency and {} filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, against the City of Philadelphia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and by conservative public interest organization the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, alleged that city of Philadelphia revoked new referrals of foster children to their organization because of their faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage. The complaint sought monetary and injunctive relief for violations of under 42 U.S.C. §1983, breach of contract, the First Amendment, Pennsylvania Constitution, and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was assigned to Judge Petrese B. Tucker.

Plaintiffs asserted that Philadelphia's decision to revoke new foster care referrals breached their contract with the city and targeted them on religious grounds. According to the plaintiffs, the city had previously excepted them from providing foster care services to same-sex couples, and therefore the city's contract was ambiguous on whether they were required to provide these services to same-sex couples. They also alleged that the public statements made by the Mayor of Philadelphia and other public officials criticizing their refusal to serve same-sex couples indicated the city's decision to suspend the contract constituted religious discrimination.

On June 7, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction requesting that the Court reinstate referrals of foster children to the plaintiff. The defendants' opposition argued that the plaintiffs violated the City's Fair Practice Ordinance, which forbids discrimination against individuals in public accommodations, and was clearly included in the contract. Since the defendants were acting on behalf of the city, and the city was previously unaware of the plaintiffs' refusal to serve otherwise qualified same-sex couples, the defendants argued that they were within their right to suspend the contract.

On July 13, 2018, Judge Petrese B. Tucker denied the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and TRO. Judge Tucker held that the parties' intent was clear: the Fair Practices ordinance applied to the contract and that plaintiffs' services fell within "public accommodations"; therefore, the plaintiffs were required to serve anyone who sought their services. 320 F.Supp.3d 661. The Court rejected the defendants' claims that this violated the Free Exercise clause; it held that the city's policy was neutral and also found that there was insufficient discriminatory intent to trigger strict scrutiny review.

The plaintiffs appealed on the same day of this decision. On April 22, 2019, the United State Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, in an opinion by Judge Thomas L. Ambro. The Court of Appeals held that the City's nondiscrimination policy was neutral and the religious views of the plaintiff did not entitle it to an exception from the policy. Additionally, the Third Circuit found that the City had not targeted the plaintiffs "for its religious beliefs" nor was its decision "motivated by ill will against [the plaintiff's] religion, rather than sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." 922 F.3d 140.

The plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari on July 22, 2019. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on February 24, 2020. 140 S.Ct. 1104. Numerous parties filed amici curiae briefs for both the plaintiff and the defendant. A group of United States Senators advocated for granting the injunction on religious liberty grounds, while others argued for preserving the lower court's decision and reasoning.

The case is ongoing with oral arguments scheduled for the upcoming 2020 Supreme Court term.

Graham Rotenberg - 06/14/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Discrimination-area
Contracting
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description Catholic foster care agency and social services organization
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 05/18/2018
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)
  Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
American Civil Liberties Union
Date: February 24, 2020
By: ACLU
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:18-cv-02075-PBT (E.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/15/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order [ECF# 53] (E.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion of the Court [Ct. of App. ECF# 3113217629] (922 F.3d 140)
FA-PA-0016-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/22/2019
Source: Westlaw
Brief for the States of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, by and Through Governor Matthew G. Bevin, as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners
FA-PA-0016-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/26/2019
City Respondents' Brief in Opposition
FA-PA-0016-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/10/2019
Reply Brief for Petitioners
FA-PA-0016-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2019
Opinion (140 S.Ct. 1104)
FA-PA-0016-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/24/2020
Source: Westlaw
Complaint [ECF# 1 (& 1-1 to 1-11)]
FA-PA-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for Petitioners
FA-PA-0016-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Brief Amicus Curiae of Professor Eugene Volokh in Support of Neither Party
FA-PA-0016-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2020
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioners
FA-PA-0016-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/03/2020
show all people docs
Judges Ambro, Thomas L. (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0003
Tucker, Petrese B. (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0002 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barclay, Stephanie Hall (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0001 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Centrella, Nicholas M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0001 | FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Coate, Jacob (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007
Guernsey, John A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Haun, William (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007
Rassbach, Eric C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0006
Reaves, Nicholas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Rienzi, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0001 | FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Windham, Lori H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0001 | FA-PA-0016-0006 | FA-PA-0016-0007 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bruhl, Elise (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Cooper, Leslie (New York) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Cortes, Diana P. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Ewing, Eleanor N. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Field, Benjamin H. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Gupta, Deepak (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Istvan, Jane Lovitch (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008 | FA-PA-0016-9000
Magaziner, Fred (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Matz, Joshua A (New York) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Oliver, Schaundra (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Peautz, Michael Wu-Kung (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Pfautz, Michael Wu-Kung (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Pratt, Marcel S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Roper, Mary Catherine (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Sachse, Will W. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Tack-Hooper, Molly M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Taylor, Jonathan Swann (Tennessee) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Turner, Lark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Twinem, Alexandria (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0008
Wigglesworth, Catherine Vera (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-9000
Other Lawyers Davis, Elliott M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Francisco, Noel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Hawkins, Kyle (Texas) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0009
Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Mateer, Jeffrey C (Texas) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0009
Maugeri, Alexander Virgil (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Mooppan, Hashim M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Paxton, Ken (Texas) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0009
Raab, Michael S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Snyder, Benjamin W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Sturgill, Lowell V. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Suri, Vivek (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Treene, Eric W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005
Volokh, Eugene (California) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0004
Wall, Jeffrey B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0016-0005

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