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US Supreme Court rebuffs Catholic agency over same-sex foster care

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Thursday to force the city of Philadelphia to resume the placement of children in need of foster care with a Catholic agency that refuses to accept gay couples as foster parents.

In a decision that Catholic Social Services had said would force its foster care program to close, the justices refused the religious agency’s request for an injunction compelling the city to allow it to place children in foster homes while litigation over the dispute continues in lower courts.

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In the brief order that did not give any reasons for the decision, three conservative members of the court, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said they would have granted the agency’s request.

Five of the nine Supreme Court justices are needed to grant an injunction, but the court is one member short since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired at the end of July. The court is split 4-4 between liberal and conservative justices. President Donald Trump has nominated conservative federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy.

“We hoped for a different decision today,” said Lori Windham, a lawyer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the agency. She said she was encouraged that three justices agreed with their position.

The dispute arose last March after the city suspended referrals with Catholic Social Services following a newspaper report on the agency’s policy to turn away same-sex couples.

At issue is Catholic Social Services’ policy of refusing to perform home studies on same-sex couples to evaluate and certify them as foster parents, which it says would amount to a written endorsement of same-sex marriage, according to court papers.

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The case underscores increasing tensions in the United States between advocates for religious groups seeking exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, and gay rights proponents who say such exemptions would be a license to discriminate.

Legal fights are brewing in several U.S. states over laws allowing private agencies to block gay couples from adoptions or taking in foster children.

The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in a landmark 2015 decision.

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Philadelphia says that as part of its foster care contract with Catholic Social Services, the agency must follow a city anti-discrimination law, which covers sexual orientation.

Catholic Social Services, which is part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, filed suit in federal court arguing that the city had violated its religious and free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Peter Cooney


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Scientists puzzled by massive star that vanished without a trace

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Since 2001, astronomers have been aware of a massive star in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, which is about 75 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. Then, one day in 2019, it disappeared suddenly and mysteriously.

That left many scientists scratching their heads. How did Mother Nature manage to hide such a bright, enormous star, without leaving so much as a poof of smoke in its wake?

In a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society this week, astronomers raised two possible theories as to why the massive luminous blue variable (LBV) star has gone missing.

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2020 Election

Biden campaign outraises Trump for second straight month

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Washington (AFP) - Democrat Joe Biden outraised President Donald Trump's re-election campaign for the second straight month and for the second quarter of 2020, figures released Wednesday showed, highlighting robust enthusiasm for the White House challenger.Biden, the Democratic National Committee and related fundraisers brought in a staggering $141 million in June, the campaign's best fundraising month ever and $10 million more than Trump and the Republican National Committee.The second quarter of 2020 was a record haul for both campaigns, with Biden coming out on top, $282.1 million against T... (more…)

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Actor Geoffrey Rush wins ‘largest ever’ Australian defamation payout from Rupert Murdoch

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Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush won a record multimillion-dollar payout Thursday after an appeal by a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper against a defamation ruling was thrown out by an Australian court.

The Oscar-winner will receive US$2 million for lost earnings and compensation after a court rejected an appeal seeking reduced costs and a retrial of the case.

The decision -- against News Corp's Australian subsidiary Nationwide News -- is the latest twist in the ongoing legal battle between Rush and the Daily Telegraph, which accused him of inappropriate sexual behaviour toward female cast members.

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