A district judge has ruled against New York’s attempts to shut down a Christian adoption agency based on the agency’s policy not to adopt children to same-sex couples.
U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino, an Obama appointee, granted a preliminary injunction on Monday, preventing the New York Office of Children and Family Services from revoking adoption authorizations from New Hope Family Services, a Christian-based adoption agency in Syracuse.
The preliminary injunction bars the state from attempts to shut down New Hope during the course of its lawsuit against the OCFS.
“Today’s ruling signals that the state’s attempt to shutter New Hope violated core rights protected by the First Amendment,” said Senior Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, Roger Brooks, ” – the freedom to speak what you believe and the freedom to practice the teachings of your faith.”
Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing New Hope in the lawsuit.
In 2018, the New York OCFS alleged that New Hope was in violation of a 2013 state law that prohibits non-profits like New Hope from discriminating against people seeking to adopt based on their sexual orientation or marital status.
New Hope has a “recusal-and-referral” policy: If a same-sex couple or an unmarried couple or person comes to them seeking to adopt a child, they decline to take them on as clients and instead refer them to a state or secular adoption agency.
Judge D’Agostino commented on the policy, calling it “more narrowly tailored to the state’s interests while protecting New Hope’s Free Speech rights.”
State officials attempted to force New Hope into compliance or be shut down.
The case rose to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges also ruled in favor of New Hope and sent the case back to the District Court for clarification, where it landed on the desk of Judge D’Agostino.
“While not all of the evidence discussed weighs in favor of a finding of hostility when viewed individually,” wrote Judge D’Agostino, “the totality of the evidence indicates that section 421.3(d), as promulgated and enforced by OCFS, is not neutral and appears to be based on some hostility towards New Hope’s religious beliefs.”
“New Hope has demonstrated likelihood of success as to its claim,” the Judge added, “that section 421.3(d) compels it to speak contrary to its religious beliefs by requiring that New Hope say that placement with unmarried or same sex couples is in the best interests of the child. At present, OCFS has presented New Hope with an ultimatum: make such a statement or close.”
New Hope plans to proceed with its lawsuit.