Judge rules for religious adoption agency limiting services

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge ruled that New York state could not require a Christian family services agency to provide adoption services to unmarried or same-sex couples.

New Hope Family Services in Syracuse professes that it cannot provide adoption services to same-sex or unmarried couples because of religious beliefs. It filed a federal lawsuit against the state Office of Children and Family Services in 2018 after the agency told it to revise its “discriminatory and impermissible” policy or shut down its adoption program, according to court filings.

U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino in Albany cited free speech protections Tuesday in granting New Hope a summary judgment and ruling the state agency couldn’t compel New Hope to provide adoption services to unmarried or same-sex couples.

An attorney for New Hope said shutting down an agency for its religious beliefs serves no one.

“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,” Roger Brooks of the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a prepared release.

The state Office of Children and Family Services said in a prepared statement it was “deeply disappointed with the decision and maintains that discrimination on any basis should not be tolerated. We’re reviewing our options for next steps.”

The district court in Albany had dismissed New Hope’s lawsuit in May 2019, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit sent the case back down to the trial court.

New Hope said it takes no government funding and has placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since 1965.