A federal judge has temporarily blocked the shut down of a Christian adoption agency which refused to place children with LGBT+ families.
In 2018 New Hope Family Services in Syracuse, New York, was told that its discriminatory policy of only placing children with married, heterosexual couples violated a state law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
For five years after the regulation was put in place New Hope continued to practise a “recusal-and-referral” policy of declining to match children with unmarried and same-sex couples, instead referring these parents to other adoption agencies.
The agency claimed it faced no objections to this policy until the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) ordered that it had to place children with unmarried and same-sex couples or be forced to close.
In response the Christian agency launched a lawsuit against the OCFS, accusing the government body of violating its first and 14th amendment rights.
New Hope has now been given temporary protection after US district judge Mae D’Agostino granted an injunction which prevents the agency from being shut down as long as the case continues.
In her decision, D’Agostino concluded that the OCFS’s interpretation of the law “demonstrates some animosity towards particular religious beliefs”.
“While not all of the evidence discussed weighs in favour of a finding of hostility when viewed individually, the totality of the evidence indicates [OCFS’s interpretation] is not neutral and appears to be based on some hostility towards New Hope’s religious beliefs,” she wrote.
New Hope was represented in part by Alliance Defending Freedom, an officially designated anti-LGBT+ hate group in light its efforts to “regularly demonise LGBT+ people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians'”.
ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks celebrated the granting of the New Hope’s preliminary injunction in a statement released last week.
“Today’s ruling signals that the state’s attempt to shutter New Hope violated core rights protected by the First Amendment – the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith,” he said.
“Thankfully, this ruling means that New Hope can continue offering the exceptional support it has provided for decades while its lawsuit challenging the state’s unconstitutional policy continues.”