The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against CSS on April 22.
"The City's nondiscrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception from that policy," Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro concluded.
Catholic Social Services has never been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child's race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
"CSS will only certify foster parents who are either married or single; it will not certify cohabitating unmarried couples, and it considers all same-sex couples to be unmarried. So far as the record reflects, no same-sex couples have approached CSS seeking to become foster parents," Judge Ambro wrote.
Despite this, Ambro concluded that the City of Philadelphia "stands on firm ground in requiring its contractors to abide by its non-discrimination policies when administering public services," and that the record demonstrates, in his view, the "City's good faith in its effort to enforce its laws against discrimination" rather than an anti-religious bias.
The U.S. Supreme Court in August 2018 declined to grant an injunction that would require the city to continue its foster-care placement with the agency during litigation over the matter.
Philadelphia is not the only city to refuse to work with a Catholic organization on the issue of foster care and adoption placement. In Buffalo, Catholic Charities recently ceased adoption and foster care work due to rules that would have forced the organization to violate their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities had done work with adoption in Buffalo for nearly a century before the rule change.
In recent years, faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have also been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services because of beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.