Nancy Polikoff

The DC Catholic Church's red herring

Filed By Nancy Polikoff | November 15, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: adoption rights, Catholic church, foster care, foster parenting, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

To hear the Catholic Church tell it, if same-sex couples can marry in DC they will have to stop providing social services here. At least that's their threat, as reported earlier this week in the Washington Post.

I heard the same thing at the October 26 committee hearing. red_herring2.gifTheir representative said the marriage equality bill would "hurt the people who count on Catholic Charities." (To view the whole hearing click here and select the October 26 meeting of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary).

After their representative lamented about what would happen when they sought relicensing as a foster care agency, Committee Chair Phil Mendelson asked why foster care would be implicated and the answer was that the Catholic Charities would not place children with same-sex couples.

Well, I have news for the church (except I suspect it's not news to them).

For more than 30 years it has been unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status in the provision of services in the District of Columbia. Catholic Charities operates in a discriminatory manner because no one has challenged them. Lesbians and gay men understandably go elsewhere to be licensed as foster or adoptive parents, and no one has asked the District of Columbia to stop funding Catholic Charities.

What the church seeks in the marriage equality bill has nothing to do with marriage. They have what they are entitled to in that respect -- the right not to conduct marriages of same-sex couples. That is a completely uncontroversial and constitutionally mandated provision. What Catholic Charities seeks is immunity from existing civil rights laws that predate marriage equality by decades and will continue to exist regardless of whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry in the District of Columbia.

Councilmembers show no inclination to exempt Catholic Charities from those laws. Good for them. Looking the other way is one thing; affirmatively approving discrimination is another. If this matter comes to a head in the city, it is entirely the responsibility of the church itself for thinking it could confuse lawmakers and the public by conflating marriage for same-sex couples and nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the provision of services. So far, we are not confused.

Cross-posted at Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage.


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It looks to be that Catholic charity only goes to Catholics! Seems they can't even follow what they claim to believe!

"The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." (PSA 145:9)

"God is love." (1JO 4:16)

Unfortunately, in an editorial today, the Washington Post is urging some compromise be found on these issues. I don't know why a compromise is in order on civil rights.

The good news is; thanks to the medievil(sp?) Pope Ben?
The Catholic Church is on a fast track to obscurity. Doesn't help our current angst much at all, but in just one more generation the bulk of church membership will be in the Southern hemisphere and embraced only by the uneducated poor there. Remove their tax exemptions, and they'll hightail it outta here even sooner :)

thank you Nancy for laying this out - I will absolutely be using this in my work on this issue

the hypocrisy and twisting of the facts is another example of the church hierarchy sticking their nose where it doesn't belong

This is a lose-lose-lose-lose all around - for the District, the Catholic Church, Catholics (devout, dedicated and questioning) and most importantly - the ~ 68,000 poor and needy people Catholic Charities currently helps. As a born & raised Catholic who attended 16 years of Catholic school, I just wonder what would Jesus do? Cast away the poor, deserving AND homeless children in the name of discrimination? For me, this is another nail in the coffin that Catholic leaders are NOT people whom I wish to follow and continue to alienate the LGBT community. I've tried hard to reconcile this, and my faith in Jesus is unwavering. But I'm through with the Catholic Church. Thanks for letting me share.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | November 16, 2009 8:58 AM

Gerri, thank you, you have come a long way since fishing in Michigan City.

Pete, It is never in order to compromise on Civil Rights and thank you for saying so. Ours is a Civil Rights movement and the sooner we purge "lifestyle" out of it the better.

Jim, the Roman Church, my church, from my youth has always depended upon ignorance to spread their influence. They patched up the unexplainable with "divine mysteries."

Cathy, KILL THEM.

Robert; it was my church too, once: 12 yrs of Catholic education, altar boy, choir boy, and all that indoctrination. At 17, a priest declared of me: 'Faith is a gift from God - and you are obviously NOT a recipient!' These days, most Catholics I know attend church for the sake of familiar comfort only - like returning to a favorite fishing hole where you got lucky once?
Thankfully, they ponder the Church's teachings (mandates) with only a wink and a nod. Along with sexual abuse; hypocrisy and moral elitism are insidious stains that cannot be white-washed over the long term. And of course; the sin is not that a dying institution struggles and flails, or flexes what little muscle it has left - the sin is that politicians listen and respond out of a lingering fear of losing votes. I honestly think that most practicing Catholics highly doubt papal infallibility and hunger for a more humanistic dictat. The closed churches, the bankruptcy's, the declining church attendance are all testament to that.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | November 16, 2009 10:55 AM

Jim, I would love to have a return of the simple beautiful "faith" I once had with an angel on my shoulder.

I would settle for the contemplative peace I found in Trappist retreats as I sorted myself out.

But lacking either fantasy, for to me that is all that they are, I instead try to deal with the harsh real world as it is.

Oh, and the institution of the church is just rotten at the core. Many individuals associated with it are fine people.

Who cares? The D.C. government can take the money that they formerly gave the Catholic Charities (75% of their budget), to more respectful, better providers who don't discriminate. Screw the Catholics and their so-called "charity". Maybe they should give the money to an athiest organization that doesn't have religion at the core of their belief system, so that everyone is treated equally.

Calling a lie a lie. Calling liars, liars, THOU SHALT NOT SPREAD FALSEHOODS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR. " How is it that the Church can break the ten commandments , at will, and never be nailed for it? We need to screem at them, everytime we are in their presence so the world will know what sinners they are. We must not let them get away with this any longer. They have more skeletons in their closets than anyone could imagine. Time to pull their skeletons out of the closets, and name them for what they are.

Why is the Church licensing foster parents anyway? They's signing marriage licenses, licensing foster parents, setting up kids with adoptive parents, spending district money to manage homeless shelters.... at what point do we just admit that they're another bureau.