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LGBTQ+ Catholic Group Says Fulton Ruling offers “Mixed Results” for LGBTQ+ People, Demonstrates Need for Comprehensive National Protections

Contact:  Marianne Duddy-Burke, execdir@dignityusa.org,

June 17, 2021.  DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the church and society, says today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia offers mixed results for LGBTQ+ people and children in foster care. The nation’s highest court has ruled that the City of Philadelphia violated Catholic Social Service’s Free Exercise rights in refusing to renew a foster care services contract due to the agency’s refusal to license same-sex couples. The ruling was based on a clause in the city’s contract that allowed the Commissioner to provide exemptions, leading the Court to rule that there was not general applicability of the city’s nondiscrimination provisions.

“While we are disappointed in the specifics of today’s ruling, we are relieved that the Court did not allow a broad exemption to nondiscrimination provisions in foster and adoption care,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. Duddy-Burke and her female spouse are also foster and adoptive parents. “It remains deeply problematic that some religiously affiliated agencies continue to seek the ability to ban same-sex couples from opening their hearts and homes to children in need and undermine our hopes for expanding our families. The biases that lie at the heart of this case need to be eradicated.”

Duddy-Burke continued, “Catholics like me, and other people of faith, take great pride in the vital social services religiously affiliated organizations have provided for decades. However, we also know that in a diverse society like ours, we need to offer these services to everyone. Most Catholics and other believers will find this ruling to be a violation of their deeply held principles. We know that it is our duty to care for the vulnerable—the widow, the orphan. That is much more important than protecting the doctrine of any particular denomination.”

Duddy-Burke said the ruling pointed to the need for stronger legal protections for LGBTQ+ people. “While this particular case dealt with foster care and adoption, the lack of consistent protections for LGBTQ+ people make us vulnerable to ongoing discrimination in employment, access to health care, enjoying public accommodations and obtaining vital social services. Fulton demonstrates the need for strong, national protections once again. Your identity should not be a barrier to getting your basic human needs met, ” she said.

DignityUSA will continue to work for passage of measures like the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act and the Equality Act, both currently pending in Congress, that would strengthen legal protections for children in foster care and LGBTQ+ people across the country. “Our Catholic faith calls on us to break down oppressive structures,” said Duddy-Burke. “We take this call seriously.”


DignityUSA is the world’s longest-serving organization of Catholics working for LGBTQ+ equality. Founded in 1969, it is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.