Law professor: SCOTUS ruling leaves intact antidiscrimination law for religious exemptions

LAWRENCE — The Supreme Court announced today a unanimous ruling stating the City of Philadelphia could not bar a Catholic agency from working with the city on foster care cases. The city originally made the move because of the agency’s policy against working with samesex couples. Kyle Velte, a law expert on discrimination, employment and sexual orientation, is available to speak with media about the ruling.

The decision is largely viewed as a narrow decision that largely preserves existing antidiscrimination law. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that because the city’s contract with its agencies allows exceptions from the contract’s antidiscrimination provision in some instances, it must also consider them for the religious organization.

Velte, associate professor of law at the University of Kansas School of Law, has researched and written extensively on discrimination in the law. Velte can comment on the ruling, its effects, religious rights vs. individual rights, arguments behind the case, similar discrimination cases and related topics.

“While not the comprehensive victory sought by LGBTQ-rights advocates, today’s decision leaves largely intact the existing law concerning the applicability of state and local antidiscrimination law in the face of requests for religious exemptions,” Velte said. “The Court rested its fact-specific ruling on the city’s contract with Catholic Social Services, rather than on the City of Philadelphia’s antidiscrimination law. In considering this as a case about a contract, rather than as a case triggering the city’s antidiscrimination law, the Court left open the question of whether public accommodations, such as wedding photographers, must be granted First Amendment religious exemptions from state and local public accommodation laws that would permit them to turn away same-sex couples.”

Velte wrote an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case as well as in similar cases R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, United States v. Windsor, Obergefell v. Hodges and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. She has also published research on the intersection of sexuality, gender and the law in the Minnesota Law Review, Yale Law & Policy Review, Cardozo Law Review and Connecticut Law Review.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860, or @MikeKrings.