November 13, 2009

I was…

Posted in Grief, The Just a Little Sad, The Who, The Why, The WTF at 9:20 am by Dagny Taggart

…about to put up a post that was all outraged and thinky about the Archdiocese of Washington and the whole social-services-contracts vs. same-sex-marriage thing.  And how annoyed I was at the Church for threatening to withdraw from those contracts if DC passed the laws permitting same-sex marriage. 

Because I?  Am totally for anyone getting married who wants to.  I mean, I have my own personal opinions on what people should probably think about before they do that, but I don’t really care so much about the chromosomal makeup of the parties involved.

And then I read something suggesting that it’s actually the District that would end the contracts if the Church didn’t modify the definition of marriage that it’s held for… well… yeah.  The Church has been around for a long time.  And I don’t really agree with their stance on this, but… it’s a religion.  And people have a right to be religious ignoramuses if they want, and I have a right to not associate with them.  And some other states have granted limited exceptions on these issues to make sure that the homeless continue to have some refuge – in the District, these exceptions would mean millions of dollars in social services, to people who really really need them.  As I understand it, it also means that the Church wouldn’t marry same-sex couples, wouldn’t provide benefits, as a private employer, to same-sex spouses of Church employees, etc.

And so, it seems like it’s a lot more complicated than it looks, on the surface.  Because, well, people should be able to get married, and have those marriages mean something to employers who have benefits plans.  But religions shouldn’t have to change basic tenets in order to do good things for people, at least some of whom would likely die without those good things.  And practically speaking, it’s hard to say that the District would be right in denying someone food, because someone else couldn’t get health insurance.  I don’t know if it’s impossible to say that, but I definitely find it hard.

So, I’m not so sure where I stand on the issue now, given how strongly I support the 1st Amendment, and how strongly I support people in love being able to make a lifelong commitment to each other and attain the social benefits thereof, and how strongly I support people having food to eat, and a place to sleep at night.  Maybe the misery of the population whose lives are normally improved through those services, some of whom are undoubtedly same-sex couples themselves, is the price we have to pay for equality AND freedom of religion to coexist.

I just really hope not.



  1. Brian said,

    I find it puzzling that the District would do that. I mean, doesn’t that fly in the face of the whole church-state separation thing? If the idea was to prevent the influence of various levels of dogma/crazy (see Cruise, Tom) out of the government, you’d think there should be an equal barrier the other way as well.

    I kind of think one of the biggest problems, vis a vis the whole marriage thing, is that both the religious and government arrangements use the same word. So when the state starts talking about marriage, the church gets all hot and bothered because they’re worried the govt is talking about their marriage, which is totally different from the arrangement the governement oversees. Like, if the govt were to decide to re-define all state-recognized marriages as “civil unions,” I wonder whether some portions about the debate would calm down, for the simple reason that it would draw a clear distinction between two very different concerns: one spiritual and one largely economic.

    People in love can make commitments to each other independent of church or state. People who get married at the courthouse are no less committed than people who get married in a church (or by Elvis in Vegas); whether or not a particular religious body sanctions it is only an issue for people in that particular religion. The social-benefits thing is important, but that’s not something that the govt should even be talking to the church about.

    Nice to see you haven’t actually run out of things to say. 😉

    • Brian: I *think* the issue, for the District, is that it cannot enter into contracts with an entity that refuses to extend services to a particular class of people (here, same-sex spouses) on religious grounds – because the act of entering into the contract with that entity would then be perceived as an endorsement of that particular religion. A bit backwards, perhaps. But it doesn’t really matter what word either party is using if the civil partner/spouse still can’t get health insurance through their civil partner/spouse because that person teaches phys. ed. at the local Catholic school.

      The gov’t is only talking to the Church about social benefits insofar as the Church is an employer, denying employment benefits to same-sex spouses on religious grounds – which means that the Church is becoming an employer with whom the gov’t cannot do business. I think.

      • Brian said,

        Oh, ok, that makes sense (to the extent that phrase applies here, that is). I was making a more generalized statement about terminology and the social-benefits thing, but I see your point. I think. 🙂

  2. vvk said,

    I think the line should be drawn within the institution of the Church itself. Secular functions of the Church that a paid for using government dollars should be treated differently from the religious functions of the Church. So someone who works in a Church run homeless shelter should be eligible for spousal benefits regardless of gender if the shelter is funded by the government… On the other hand, the Church should be allowed to deny same sex spousal benefits for employees who work on the religious side of the institution.


  3. Lisa said,

    Ahh, I didn’t understand that. So it’s DC asking the Church to change??? Also, how are you so thinky on a Friday? I’m wondering if it’s the weather or it’s the staying home, but my brain is wanting easy pink fluffy stuff. And I was all, OK, I’ll read this and think, but only because I really really like her. 🙂

  4. vvk: I think the problem here is that there are joint dollars going into these programs – both the Church and the District are contributing.

    I think there may be some issues with Church-run adoption programs not placing babies in homes with a same-sex couple, as well, but I don’t have all the details.

    I think the line needs to be drawn, probably where it’s being drawn, but I hate, HATE that it could result in making people’s lives harder.

    Lisa: That’s what I read – that DC would require the Church to change its position before the programs could continue to receive Church funding/be run by the Church.

    Sorry for the heavy! You should definitely not read what I haven’t posted about Polanski, then. Happy pink fluffy anniversary of your last first date, to you! 🙂

  5. Did said,

    It doesn’t necessarily mean all those services will go away. It means the city will not contract with the Church to provide those services. But the City will contract with some entity to keep those services available. It’s not the Church or nothing. At least, I hope not (although that would be a very DC approach to things…). The problem will be finding other organizations with the infrastructure already in place to step in and take over the activities the Church has been responsible for in the past. So, maybe it’s more than one contract now for a variety of different services instead of one big contract to one big organization.

  6. Did: Well, I think part of my concern is that the Catholic Church is perhaps better-placed than a number of other, similar organizations, to provide these services. And I’m not just talking about the infrastructure, but the financial aspect of things as well.

    My worry is that the other organizations that could provide, already are providing, in some private capacity – and might not be prepared to take over projects of this magnitude. And that even if the Church starts privatized programs as soon as the law is passed, that there will be a lag period between when Catholic-provided services must stop, and new contracts take effect. That lag period could mean all kinds of horrific things for people who depend on those services daily.

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