Gay marriage in D.C. ctd.

Thomas J Reese sums it up nicely, and says it all better than I have.

Catholic Charities competes with private and nonprofit agencies for these contracts with the government deciding which organization will provide the best services for the money. This is a good deal for state and local governments because these Catholic Charities programs are efficiently and effectively run with both professionals and volunteers.

Meanwhile, the City Council for the District of Columbia has decided to enact legislation forbidding discrimination against those in gay marriages. This legislation would not force churches to perform gay marriages or to change their moral doctrines, but it would require any organization with a contract with the District to provide medical benefits to a gay partner just like it provides them to the heterosexual partner in a marriage. It would also require adoption agencies to sponsor children to gay couples if the agency is under contract with the city.

The archdiocese says that it cannot do this because of its moral opposition to gay marriage. This is not new. The Archdiocese to San Francisco had the same fight with its city council, and the adoption programs of Catholic Charities in Massachusetts were shut down because the state legislature insisted that they sponsor adoptions to gay couples while the bishops insisted they would not.

It should be clear from this review of the facts that the church is not threatening to withdraw its money from the poor. It is simply pointing out that it cannot observe these new requirements and therefore the city will cancel its contracts. It is in fact the city council that is closing down these programs, not the archdiocese.

[….]

Let’s be clear. The city has a right to set whatever conditions it wants on agencies that receive money from it. But the church also has a right to say, “Sorry, we can’t accept money under those rules.”

Some people on the city council think that is fine. Good riddance. They think they can find other people to run these programs as well as Catholic Charities. I doubt it, but they have the power and the money so they can try. If they fail, it is their responsibility.

So far I have been defending the archdiocese, but in fact I regret that the U.S. Catholic bishops have an obsession with opposing the legalization of gay marriage. This is an issue that at most deserves one letter of opposition from the bishop and then they should let it go. Spending millions of church dollars to oppose gay marriage in California, Massachusetts and Maine was a waste of resources and a case of misplaced priorities.

I have never bought the argument that gay marriage is a threat to families. Legalizing gay marriage is not going to cause millions of people in heterosexual marriages to suddenly decide to leave their spouses for a same-sex partner. It could be argued that gay marriage might help heterosexual marriages. For example, in an apartment building filled with unmarried couples in New York City, the gays who get married may inspire the heterosexuals to do the same thing.

With regards to medical benefits, the real answer is that whether a person gets health care should not depend on their marital status or where they are employed. We should have universal health care for everyone that is not dependent on employers. But in the meantime, can the Catholic Church give health care benefits to gay partners of its employees? The archdiocese says it cannot because gay marriage is against its teachings.

Suffice to say, I agree almost entirely with what Reese is saying here.  He goes on to point out that lots of other things the Church tolerates are against Church teaching as well – like divorce.  And yet they don’t withhold funding.  Very true, and something that the Church should be reminded of so that their stance on gay marriage can change.  However, that is really not the point.  The point is in the passage above which I’ll quote again:

It should be clear from this review of the facts that the church is not threatening to withdraw its money from the poor. It is simply pointing out that it cannot observe these new requirements and therefore the city will cancel its contracts. It is in fact the city council that is closing down these programs, not the archdiocese.

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26 thoughts on “Gay marriage in D.C. ctd.

  1. His summary seems fair enough to me. And yes, people who are accusing the Church of holding the homeless etc to their position on gay rights are engaging in dishonest rhetoric.

    That the Church and opponents of SSM do the same or worse in the other direction does not make it right.

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  2. More falsehoods. Can people please just read the DC Human Rights Act? This issue was covered well during the two day marriage hearing as well. It already is, and has been for a long time, illegal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or their marital status (which includes domestic partnership status).

    http://ohr.dc.gov/ohr/frames.asp?doc=/ohr/lib/ohr/pro_acts_of_discrimination.pdf

    The church aparently had no problem following the law when gays couldn’t get married. They are now trying to roll back gay rights so that married gays have less rights than domestically partnered ones.

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    • But where in that document does it require anyone to provide benefits to same-sex couples? Isn’t that the crux of this issue? The Church is saying that they would be forced to give benefits not just to gay people but to their spouses. Again, I’m not saying this is the right position, only that it is the Church’s position. Also – I see nothing regarding adoption in this document.

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      • Under definitions 17 it reads: “‘Marital status’ means the state of being married, in a domestic partnership, single, divorced, separated, or widowed and the usual conditions associated therewith, including pregnancy or parenthood.”

        That means if you provide benefits to married spouses, you must also provide them to domestic partners.

        It doesn’t mention adoption per se, but agencies that provide services to the public are considered places of public accommodation, which are broadly subject to the non-discrimination law.

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  3. The Catholic Church has been keeping it’s public and private funding, and public and private work, separate until now. Why is it saying it can no longer do that and follow the law in their public services? If it is now saying it can’t keep it’s public and private money separate, then they should not get tax exempt status because their private money is funding political campaigns.

    Churches are redefining how we think of companies and organizations that are both publicly and privately funded, and it’s going to come back and bite them.

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  4. Elizabeth – here’s a more detailed reading of the D.C. Human Rights Law as it stands now [pdf].

    (b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to bar any religious or political organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious or political organization, from limiting employment, or admission to or giving preference to persons of the same religion or political persuasion as is calculated by the organization to promote the religious or political principles for which it is established or maintained.
    (c) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to supersede any federal rule, regulation or act.
    (d) Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit any religious organization, association, or society or non-profit organization which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society from limiting the sales, rental or occupancy of housing accommodations which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to members of the same religion or organization, or from giving preference to these persons, unless the entity restricts its membership on the basis of race, color, or national origin. This chapter does not prohibit a private club, not open to the public, which incident to its primary purpose, provides lodgings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose, from limiting the rental or occupancy of these lodgings to its members or from giving preference to its members.

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  5. “It is in fact the city council that is closing down these programs, not the archdiocese.”
    –This seems to me to be letting the church off the hook, morally. After all, there’s nothing stopping them from adopting a set of non-homophobic policies and embracing gay marriage. If they refuse to do that, well, let’s hope the door doesn’t hit them on the ass on the way out.

    You write as if their decision to oppose gay marriage was morally neutral or something reasonable people could disagree on, which I think explains the disconnect with the commenters here.

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  6. At the end of the day what’s more important that the right people, who think (or more accurately say) the right things, help people or that the people who need help get help?

    I mean I’m young but stuff like this makes me feel old, like when did everything become my way or the highway?

    Maybe I’m just being cranky today but can’t we quit forcing life into conveniently flattering but false dichotomies? I just don’t think, at the end of the day, someone getting a warm meal or shelter particularly cares if they’re getting help from Acorn or the Catholic Church and given that charity work isn’t about us (knock on wood), why shouldn’t we leave well enough alone?

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  7. Again this tenditious conflation.

    A representative government represents all citizens. Societies evolve and, yes, devolve.

    Vatican City is welcome to define “citizen” as something else. Our government does not have that privilege.

    You’re telling me Catholicism, a belief system that has survived nearly two thousand years during the most wrenching changes in history, can’t deal with giving warmth and succor to someone based on who they love.

    That’s its privilege. But on its own tithe.

    This is NOT the same thing as abortion access in federally-facilitated health plans. Maybe in 110 acres that define the Vatican City. But not here.

    If they are short of money maybe they can peel off some off the gold gilt and gems they use to decorate Cathedrals in some of the poorest villages on the planet.

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  8. Yes the DC council will do what they want and I will laugh my rear end off when the Church shuts down the services they provide through city contracts and the City starts screaming about how bad things are as a result. As a No.Va native, the idea of the DC gov’t running anything competently makes me laugh.

    My pro-choice mother worked as a social worker for Catholic Charities for a time and was bound by their restrictions but thought they did a very good job otherwise.

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