Skip to main content

Greenberg Traurig Files Amicus Brief in Same-Sex Foster Care Rights Case

PHILADELPHIA – May 30, 2019 – Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP has submitted an amicus brief on appeal on behalf of the non-profit Children’s Rights, supporting the City of Philadelphia, which won a high-profile case rejecting a challenge to the City’s non-discrimination policy regarding LBGTQ+ foster parents. Kendyl T. Hanks, an appellate shareholder in the firm’s Austin office assisted the organization, with collaboration from firm shareholder Paul Ferrillo in the New York City office.

The trial court held that foster care agencies receiving public funding cannot discriminate against prospective LGBTQ foster parents or others on the basis of religious belief. Catholic Social Services, a child welfare provider, appealed the decision, claiming that the right to free exercise of religion and free speech entitled the agency to continue to receive referrals from the City while rejecting otherwise-qualified same-sex couples as foster parents.

On April 22, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling. The appellate court concluded that Philadelphia’s non-discrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and that the religious beliefs of Catholic Social Services do not entitle it to an exemption from that policy. The amicus brief detailed the risk of serious harm to children in foster care, who so desperately need safe and loving homes, from narrowing the pool of prospective foster and adoptive parents.

“I am proud of the role the firm has played in this case,” said Caroline J. Heller, litigation shareholder and chair of Greenberg Traurig LLP’s Global Pro Bono Program. “GT’s pro bono program supports the rights of children to be in loving homes, as well as the rights of those who want to provide those loving homes regardless of sexual orientation.”

Greenberg Traurig has a history of providing pro bono support regarding LGBTQ+ adoption matters. Previously, the firm represented two foster children in adoption proceedings that led to the elimination and declaration as unconstitutional of Florida’s 20-year-old ban on the adoption of children by gay individuals.

“The impact of the court’s opinion is substantial and will have great influence as to how foster children throughout the country will be overseen and placed,” Hanks said.

The case is Sharonell Fulton et al. v. City of Philadelphia et al., Case No. 18-2574.

About Greenberg Traurig’s Pro Bono Program: Greenberg Traurig lawyers across the firm provide pro bono legal services to the indigent and working poor, as well as to numerous civic and charitable organizations dedicated to assisting them. The firm focuses its resources on specialized and interrelated issues including civil rights and affirmative action, anti-human trafficking, family law matters, criminal appeals, immigration and political asylum, housing, and homelessness.

About Greenberg Traurig, LLP: Greenberg Traurig, LLP (GT) has more than 2,000 attorneys in 39 offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. GT has been recognized for its philanthropic giving, diversity, and innovation, and is consistently among the largest firms in the U.S. on the Law360 400 and among the Top 20 on the Am Law Global 100. Web:; Twitter: @GT_Law