Saturday, November 21, 2009

D.C. Officials Seek Faulty Compromise With Catholic Charities Over Marriage Equality

The Washington Post reports that some of the D.C. Council members and Del. Eleanor Homes Norton are looking for a compromise with the Archdiocese of Washington to find a way to avoid ending the Catholic Charities in the District while at the same time have legal same-sex marriage. Archbishop Wuerl threatened to close the public services if marriage equality was legalized in the capital.

D.C. officials believe a way can be found for Catholic Charities to continue operating under their current contracts with the District while at the same time have their gay employees be treated equally as their straight counterparts if they were to get married.

"The rights of [gay] partners cannot be any different from similar situated couples, but with that said, if other jurisdictions have found a way to accommodate Catholic Charities, that would be very much be desired," said Norton, who wants to avoid Congressional intervention.

While Norton has been doing her best to avoid Congress from intervening (and we really don't want that - lately, it doesn't appear many in Congress has a spine to stand up to the Catholic Church - Stupack Amendment anyone?), marriage equality champions Council members David Catania and Phil Mendelson have written directly to the Archbishop of Washington. I obtained a copy of the letter and will post below.

D.C. Council Members Letter to Archbishop

Susan Gibbs, spokesperson for the Catholic Church, told the Washington Post that the church was pleased to see the council members "finally responding" to their concerns, but that it may not be enough to alleviate the Church's fears of having to end their contracts and shut down public services.

I myself would be sad if the Church felt the need to close these services because they do in fact help many homeless and poor people get by day-to-day. However, I am not satisfied with the proposal given by council members because the solution they offer has to do with domestic partnerships and not necessarily with marriage (though I applaud the effort). And in this case particularly, you will be yet again relegating same-sex couples to a lesser status, but you would also have to do this to employed straight couples. Not very good.

On top of this, the fact that's really itching at the back of my brain is that the Catholic Church has declared full on war with marriage equality throughout the nation.

Back in August I reported on the Church's plan to put aside $2 million to fight marriage equality nationwide, even letting several parishes in Maine close rather than to give up this fight.

Yet this same Church cries foul when they're held to the same standards as any other business receiving public funds. They say they shouldn't be forced to follow discrimination laws because of their beliefs, and if they choose not to receive public funds anymore so they can continue to discriminate, then they'll be forced to close because they won't have enough money to function.

I say, Why not dip into the marriage war chest? Function as a private institution. Instead of using the $2 million to fight fellow citizens' rights, why not use it to do the good work you're already doing and let people live their lives as they see fit?

I'd have more respect for the Church if they did this than if they acknowledged my relationship in a compromised form. Don't want to acknowledge a gay employees' marriage? Don't hire gay employees! As a religious institution, they're exempt (in many circumstances) and able to do so.

As long as they're not receiving government funds.

Ah, but there's the rub. It's about the money.

Gibbs, the church spokesperson, seems to agree with me about the domestic partnership angle of the council members' proposal. She said that Archbishop Wuerl was reviewing the council members' letter, but church staffers wonder how the council can equate domestic partnership in San Francisco with same-sex marriage. See, even the church knows the two categories are not equal. She noted that the District has a domestic partnership law but that the Church is not covered by it.

And the dance continues.

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