Nancy Polikoff

Catholic Charities chooses worst option for complying with DC law...and pretends it has no choice

Filed By Nancy Polikoff | March 01, 2010 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Catholic charities, District of Columbia, marriage equality

The long wait is over. Catholic Charities of Washington, DC has settled upon its response to the District of Columbia's approval of marriage for same-sex couples. Effective March 2, its employees will no longer be able to add a spouse to employee health benefit coverage. Spouses who are currently covered will continue to be covered. Catholic Charities describes its response as "necessary to allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide essential services to the clients we serve in partnership with the District of Columbia while remaining consistent with the tenets of our religious faith."

So let's be clear. This response was not necessary.

Catholic Charities had other options. As I noted previously, Catholic Charities could have taken advantage of a complex federal law that would have removed it from local anti-discrimination laws (that's what Catholic Charities of Portland, Maine did so that it would not have to comply with Portland's mandate to cover same-sex couples). Or it could have allowed employees to cover another adult in their household as Georgetown University has done. So the decision to disadvantage married heterosexuals was a choice. And it's a choice invidiously designed to breed resentment towards the agency's gay employees, perhaps disguising the real benefit to the agency -- lowering costs by providing fewer benefits to employees.

Seems to me it's time for a social service provider other than Catholic Charities to lure away the dedicated staff at that agency, apply for contracts with the city, and provide comprehensive health benefits to all staff. Any current employee planning to marry (or remarry) would have strong incentive to leave Catholic Charities, and anyone looking for a job as a new hire will prefer an employer who provides health benefits to spouses.

Meanwhile, I presume Catholic Charities still allows an employee to cover his or her children. Under DC law, a woman married to or in a domestic partnership with a woman who gives birth to a child is a parent of that child.

I predict we have not heard the last of this issue. Catholic Charities should be ashamed of itself. Apparently it is not. But no one should be dissuaded from pointing a finger at them and screaming "Shame!" by their bogus claim of necessity. It just isn't so.

Cross-posted at Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage


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Right, and everything else in the bible about not wearing blended fibers, stoning slaves that escape, women being unable to speak and having to live in a cave when Aunt Flow comes to visit and the thousand other stupidities will be adhered to, right? Cuz those are religious tenets of their faith.

RIGHT?

Hypocrites.

Several people pointed out that Catholic Charities was providing spousal benefits to REMARRIED employees, even though the church does not recognize divorce. There's an argument that also went nowhere with them.

And it's a choice invidiously designed to breed resentment towards the agency's gay employees, perhaps disguising the real benefit to the agency -- lowering costs by providing fewer benefits to employees.

I think that's it too. This group has been unusually petty and seems to be led by people who love the media spotlight. I wouldn't put it past them.

Pamela Curry | March 2, 2010 1:27 AM

As if I really needed another good reason to self identify as a recovering Catholic

Judas Peckerwood | March 2, 2010 2:48 AM

"Catholic Charities describes its response as 'necessary to allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide essential services to the clients we serve in partnership with the District of Columbia while remaining consistent with the tenets of our religious faith.'"

Those "tenets of our religious faith" being a steadfast commitment to being bigoted, hypocritical, power-mongering douchebags. As a veteran/survivor of 12 years of Catholic schools, I cannot say I'm surprised.

twinkie1cat | March 2, 2010 8:48 AM

The Catholic church is so hypocritical. And their current theology is just nasty. Are yall aware that some of the Catholic saints were gay and martyred for their love as well as their faith? That there is a same sex marriage ceremony in the archives of the Catholic church? They have the advantage of size and history and have thrown their weight around throughout. And, on top of that, they consider themselves the ONLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH. They actually call themselves THE CHURCH.

Hopefully another charity can get the contracts, but frankly, Catholic Chairities' size and good service reputation often makes them the only game in town. Even the Southern Baptists cannot keep up.

Frankly,I cannot think of any LARGE religious charity of near their size or another big one that is not fundamentalist. So there are not many places for social workers to go.

I hope their decision brings them down. They already gave up their adoption program so they would not have to place children in gay families. Catholic Charities and the Roman Catholic Church in general needs to come back to God.

I know there are people out there who think this is how Christians act, that the are all a bunch of conservative religious fundamentalists who will hurt people to get our way. This is not the case. Many, if not most, Christians are social justice liberals and accepting of the GLBT community as our brothers and sisters in the Lord. I realize that a lot of non-Christians use this site. Please do not judge all believers by the actions of the ones who have strayed from the truth of God and the walk of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that false leaders and false prophets will try to lead even the elect astray.

You're living in a fantasy world. True, some Christians are OK with LGBT rights but most are not. Why do you suppose the USA is the laughing stock of the civilized world when it comes to LGBT rights? That's right - because we're a Christian nation that does not believe in separation of church and state. It is so bad that we're willing to kick out qualified LGBT military members and endanger national safety rather than disturb Christian bigotry. Oh, don't forget our nation prefers to destroy families and drive people into unemployment due to them being LGBT. Also to satisfy Christian bigotry.

But as they continue to run their real colours up the flagpole more people will see them for what they are. This action is calculated to provide them with many things. I hope that the end result is a nasty backlash socially. History will of course show them for what they are as history has always shown them for their damage to society.
But honestly with Opus Dei gaining so much strength within the company and the current CEO being the former head of the modern version of the Inquisition none of this is unexpected.

A. J. Lopp | March 2, 2010 3:11 PM

I believe that vendettas like this will eventually prove to be quite effective at tarnishing their reputation with the public --- even the Boy Scouts of America get to see that they can't discriminate openly without unpleasant repercussions.

Thank you, Nancy... As an ex-Catholic, I forward pieces like yours to all of my still-practicing Catholic friends and family to - quite bluntly - prick their conscience a bit. But really; most of them are unaware of the seething anti-gay agenda and hypocrisy going on. And since I continue to go to all their First Communions, weddings, etc. (and with gift in hand), I've yet to experience any resentment regarding my efforts. In truth, most of them are a bit stunned by vendettas like this and honestly chagrined. And that's exactly as it should be :)

Things like this make me very sad for my Church. There is no excuse for their behavior.

This is a desperate action by people who are fast running out of options. Every step in the DC marriage matter has been a public relations disaster for the catholic church leaders. Most Catholics are totally embarrassed by this whole thing.

If gays and lesbians are legally allowed to marry, there is no remaining argument to tolerate any form of discrimination in any other aspect of civil society.

What makes this so bitter to the losers is that Washington, DC will very likely become the gay and lesbian wedding capital of America.

Now, all we need to do is to make the whole process lots easier. Too much red tape with the 3 day waiting period after the license and lack of the option (like California has) of letting anyone perform the ceremony, not just judges or clergy. As soon as the hospitality industry realizes that these restrictions are loosing people who want a civil ceremony on days when the court is not open (Saturday and Sunday), I am sure that the law will be changed.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | March 2, 2010 11:39 AM

perhaps disguising the real benefit to the agency -- lowering costs by providing fewer benefits to employees.

Seems to me it's time for a social service provider other than Catholic Charities to lure away the dedicated staff at that agency, apply for contracts with the city, and provide comprehensive health benefits to all staff. Any current employee planning to marry (or remarry) would have strong incentive to leave Catholic Charities, and anyone looking for a job as a new hire will prefer an employer who provides health benefits to spouses.

Bingo, now they'll find out first hand what attracting and retaining the finest and brightest is all about.

Meanwhile, I presume Catholic Charities still allows an employee to cover his or her children. Under DC law, a woman married to or in a domestic partnership with a woman who gives birth to a child is a parent of that child.

Hey why don't they just eliminate benefits all together and then blame it on the gays.

Just When I Thought I Couldn't Be More Ashamed To Be Catholic, Served As An Alter Boy, Attended Poricial School K to 12. They Continue To Cause Me To Question My Faith In The Church.

As If It Wasn't Horrific Enough For 3 Decades Priests Sexually Abused Our Youth, Church Leaders Protected Pedofiles And Did Nothing To Stop Them.

Now They Will Forsake and Punish God's Children Who Are Caught In The Foster Care System. Because of Their Own Homophobia. Pretend As They, This Is Not What God Believes Is The Best Choicw For His Children.

Proud To Be Choosen As One Of God's Gay Children
Zeke

Clergy do not automatically possess the ability to marry people in the eyes of the state. To do that, we have to be licensed by the Family Court in DC or the Circuit Court in Virginia.

It's possible in Virginia for a person who is neither clergy nor a judge to get licensed to officiate at weddings. I'm sure that's the case in DC as well. I'm sure that if you want a civil ceremony in DC when the judges are off the clock, you'd just need to find someone who is licensed to do it.

As you point out, the DC diocese had other options, including what many would see as a far more CATHOLIC option of including any adult sharing the employee's home, say a dependent parent.

You're also correct that we haven't heard the last of this. I believe the diocese chose this "solution" precisely because, when the DC government next reviews its contracts and chooses to direct its money to charities which provide spousal coverage -- an entirely reasonable choice -- the diocese will scream bloody murder than they're being "discriminated against".

Their decision was political. And shameful.

Big fan, Nancy. Just put up a piece on the topic on my very new, very modest blog. Would love it if you stopped by sometime to check it out. thanks.


"On Wednesday, March 3rd, loving couples in DC will be able to be married regardless of their genitalia. As a result, DC employees of Catholic Charities learned that spouses will no longer be covered by company's new health plan.

Let's break this down, shall we?"

http://democratdeal.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-difference-day-makes-in-dc-for.html