We in Philadelphia live in a relatively progressive bubble compared with what’s happening in the vast majority of the country, where LGBTQ Americans are not protected from discrimination.

This week Delaware Gov. John Carney signed into law a statewide bill banning conversion “therapy.” Not only is this cruel practice to attempt to turn LGBTQ people into heterosexuals now illegal in Delaware, but mental-health professionals cannot refer minors out of state for it either.

A federal judge has ruled against a Catholic agency that refuses to accept LGBT couples as foster parents.

The city announced in May that it was suspending foster-care contracts with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Bethany Christian Services for violating the terms of their contract requiring the agencies not to discriminate against LGBT people. The Fair Practices Ordinance, which lays out protections from unlawful discrimination, is unambiguous in its language on what is prohibited:

“Any direct or indirect practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial, differentiation or preference in the treatment of a person on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition), sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, source of income, familial status, genetic information or domestic or sexual violence victim status, or other act or practice made unlawful under this Chapter or under the nondiscrimination laws of the United States or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Bethany has agreed to change its policy to adhere to the law, and is now reinstated as a city-funded foster-care provider. CSS, by contrast, is fighting through the courts — and losing.

An entity cannot receive city funds and discriminate against who has access to those resources. The question of whether CSS has the religious freedom to discriminate was quickly answered when it decided to enter into a contract with the city.

This case shows yet again the importance of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, along with race, age, religion and ethnicity. Every day in America, LGBTQ people in particular are denied access to the same rights that everyone else has. Protection from discrimination is not a request for special treatment, and it does not infringe on the rights of others, religious or otherwise.

It is a simple demand for the same rights as everyone else. We will not settle for less.

One of the many advocates who began pushing for answers in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 homicide of Nizah Morris was then-Police Inspector Anthony Boyle.

“At this particular point, there are questions that I want answered,” Boyle told PGN reporter Tim Cwiek, who is still covering the case, in January 2003. “Maybe everything was done correctly, but maybe police could have looked harder.”

The city has resumed contracting with Bethany Christian Services for foster-care and adoption services after the agency agreed to comply with local law and not discriminate against LGBTQ couples wishing to participate in the program.

Religion is a protected class in American federal law, but gender/sexual identity is not. However, in Philadelphia, along with other municipal pockets across the state, antidiscrimination laws make LGBTQ people equal to everyone else. In other words, if a religious organization accepts city funds to fulfill contracts, members of that organization are not permitted to deny candidates who believe or live differently — in Philadelphia, at least.

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