Catholic Church Threatens to End Social Services in DC if Gay Marriage is Approved

Eric Sheptock

Washington, DC has joined several other states in its quest for same-sex marriage. The DC Council voted 11 to 2 in favor of same-sex marriage on December 1st. According to DC Law, they must vote a second time on December 15th and then the bill goes to Capitol Hill for Congressional review. Congress then has 30 days to vote on it, or it becomes law by default.

Washington, DC
has joined several other states in its quest for same-sex marriage. The DC
Council voted 11 to 2 in favor of same-sex marriage on December 1st. According
to DC Law, they must vote a second time on December 15th and then the bill goes
to Capitol Hill for Congressional review. Congress then has 30 days
to vote on it, or it becomes law by default.


When
news of the impending vote came out in early November, the
Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC threatened to end all social
service contracts that Catholic Charities has with the city if the same-sex
marriage bill becomes law. They don’t want to pay spousal benefits to the
partners of their gay and lesbian employees. Neither do they want to allow
gay or lesbian couples to adopt children through their adoption services. All
in all, the Catholic church doesn’t want to honor same-sex marriage rights
in any way, shape, form or fashion. As a church, they are entitled to their
opinion and their stance on same-sex marriage.

However,
Catholic Charities is not just the social service branch of the Catholic
Church. It is also a non-profit which receives funding from the DC Government.
Churches don’t have to perform same-sex marriages or allow them to be performed
in their space. But businesses may not discriminate against the LGBT
community. Therefore, the crux of the issue is whether Catholic
Charities should be allowed to assert its position as a branch of the
Catholic Church and get a special exemption that doesn’t require them to honor
same-sex marriage rights or if they should be treated as a business and not be
allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians, pedophile priests
notwithstanding.

The
Catholic Church is fighting an inward battle with two of its own tenets being
pitted against each other — caring for the needy vs. being against same-sex
marriage. If they remain under contract with the city to deliver
social services, they’ll have to recognize and honor gay marriage. If they end
their social service contracts with the city, then many of Catholic Charities’
programs wouldn’t have enough funding to remain operational. In essence, they
would be letting down the 68,000 poor Washingtonians that they serve, of which
2,000 are homeless people seeking shelter. The loss of 2,000 shelter beds
during hypothermia could be catastrophic for DC’s 6,000 plus homeless people.
That said, which is the lesser of two evils — accommodating a few gays and
lesbians while providing for 68,000 needy people or leaving all of
those needy people high and dry for the sake of making a statement against gay
marriage? The fact of the matter is that, short of making a here-to-now
unmentioned compromise, the church would need to forgo one of its tenets in
order to support the other. We’ll know by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010
which way they went. Let’s hope that they make the right choice.

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My
fellow homeless advocates and I will continue to raise awareness
on the issue in hopes of instilling some sympathy in the hearts of
the affluent for those who are less fortunate. Let’s keep on keepin’ on!

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