A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a faith-based adoption agency after reversing a federal district court’s decision last year to dismiss the agency’s case.
In fall 2018, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) recognized the work of New Hope Family Services, a private, non-profit pregnancy resource center and a state authorized adoption agency, writing in a letter that the organization “had a number of strengths in providing adoption services.” But just months after the glowing review, the OCFS told New Hope that one of their policies was “discriminatory and impermissible.”
The policy in question concerns New Hope’s decision to only place children with a married mother and father, and not place children for adoption with same-sex couples or unmarried couples. Instead, they refer those couples to one of 100-plus adoption providers in New York.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents New Hope Family Services, “despite its previous favorable review of New Hope, the agency issued an ultimatum to New Hope: violate its religious beliefs or close its adoption services. OCFS took this position even though New Hope receives no public funding.”
Because of this, New Hope filed a complaint against OCFS in federal district court in December 2018. But in May 2019, the district court dismissed the case.
New Hope appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and on Nov. 4, the Second Circuit issued an emergency order allowing New Hope to keep its doors open and continue serving families and children while its appeal was being considered.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the Second Circuit found that the lower court’s dismissal was premature, sending the case back down to the trial court for reconsideration.
Of the 400,000 American children in foster care, 25,000 are in New York alone, ADF says.
“New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades,” said John Bursch, ADF’s vice president for appellate advocacy.
“This is a huge win for New Hope,” said ADF. “With its ruling, the Second Circuit guaranteed that New Hope will finally have a chance to prove its case in court. And with such important constitutional freedoms and the well-being of so many children at stake, New Hope has every reason to believe it will be able to do just that.”