Court blocks NY from punishing Christian adoption agency for rejecting unmarried, gay couples

New Hope Family Services in New York | Facebook/New Hope Family Services

A court in New York state has ruled that a Christian adoption agency cannot be shut down because it refused to place children with same-sex couples and unmarried cohabitating heterosexual couples.         

U.S. District Judge Mae D'Agostino issued a decision and order on Tuesday permanently stopping state officials from closing down New Hope Family Services, Inc.

The New York Office of Children and Family Services was enjoined from forcing “New Hope to process applications from, or place children for adoption with, same-sex couples or unmarried cohabitating couples, and insofar as it would prevent New Hope from referring such couples to other agencies.”

“New Hope has demonstrated that it is entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting the State of New York from requiring New Hope to provide adoption services to unmarried or same-sex couples,” ruled D'Agostino.

New Hope is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has successfully argued First Amendment cases before the United States Supreme Court.

ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said in a statement released Wednesday that he considered the decision “great news for children waiting to be adopted and for the parents partnering with New Hope Family Services to provide loving, stable homes.”

“New Hope’s faith-guided services don’t coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children,” stated Brooks.

“The decision from the court simply allows New Hope to continue serving the community so that more kids find permanent homes, more adoptive parents welcome a new child, and more birth parents enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades.”

In 2018, OCFS claimed that New Hope violated a 2013 state law prohibiting discrimination against adoption applicants on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status.

New Hope sued OCFS in response, accusing the government office of violating the First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of the Christian charity.

A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in July 2020 to send the case back down to the district court, ruling in favor of the Christian charity.

Circuit Judge Reena Raggi wrote the panel opinion, concluding that New Hope had a valid “suspicion of religious animosity” given how the law was being used against them.

“It is plainly a serious step to order an authorized adoption agency such as New Hope — operating without complaint for 50 years, taking no government funding, successfully placing approximately 1,000 children, and with adoptions pending or being supervised — to close all its adoption operations,” Raggi said.

“All the more serious when, as just discussed, the agency has, for five years and without objection by OCFS, used recusal and referral to avoid rejecting applicants on the basis of its religious beliefs.”

In October 2020, D'Agostino issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of New Hope, concluding that the OCFS treatment of New Hope “demonstrates some animosity towards particular religious beliefs.”  

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