A U.S. federal judge handed a Christian adoption agency a major victory Monday when it blocked the state of New York from closing the agency over its policy on same-sex adoption.
At issue is a policy by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) that requires adoption agencies to place children in opposite-sex and same-sex homes.
OCFS threatened to close a faith-based adoption ministry, New Hope Family Services, but the agency sued in federal court, claiming violations of its constitutionally protected rights of religious liberty and free speech.
On Monday, District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino agreed with the agency and issued an injunction against the state, saying the agency likely will succeed in its suit.
“The Court finds that the totality of the evidence weighs in favor of a finding of hostility” toward religion, she wrote.
Enforcing the state policy, she ruled, “runs contrary to the state’s interest in maximizing the number of families available for adoption.”
D’Agostino, who was nominated by President Obama, previously ruled against the agency in 2019, but the agency appealed, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed her decision, sending it back to D’Agostino. She noted in Monday’s decision she had “specific instructions” she was “bound to follow.”
New Hope’s policy prohibits the placement of children in same-sex homes or in the homes of unwed heterosexual couples. The agency says when such a couple is interested in adoption, it “refers them to the appropriate county social services office or another provider.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented New Hope in the suit, applauded the new decision.
“Today’s decision is great news for children waiting to be adopted and for the parents partnering with our client, New Hope Family Services, to provide loving, stable homes,” said ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks. “Government officials have no business forcing faith-based providers to choose between speaking messages about marriage that contradict their religious convictions and closing their doors.”
New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman said in a statement that “every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other.”
“New York is threatening to shut down New Hope’s adoption services, which has placed over 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began as an adoption agency in 1965,” Jerman said. “We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful that today’s decision allows us to keep serving children and families, even though our legal fight continues to end the state’s harassment once and for all.”
Photo courtesy: (C)Getty Images/Estradaanton
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.