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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Archdiocese of Washington and Same-Sex Marriage

Here is a commentary on how the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and its Archbishop, the Most Reverand Donald W. Wuerl, is handling a recent City Ordinance change involving extending health benefits to other than spouses.  The source is the Sojourners Community website blog, God's Politics.

The gist of the story is that DC passed an ordinance recognizing same sex marriage and requiring anyone with a contract with the District "... to provide equal spousal benefits to employees regardless of a spouse’s gender".  Of course, DC Catholic Charities had such contracts, which made life easier for everyone.  Standing on principals, DC Catholic Charities cut benefits to all employees.

The author of the post, Bryan Cones, is managing editor of U.S. Catholic, out of Chicago.  Mr Cones recommends the solution of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
That city’s board of supervisors began requiring groups with city contracts to provide equal benefits in 1997. Rather than take the easy way out, then-Archbishop William Levada expanded employee benefits, allowing employees to cover any other legally domiciled adult member of a household—a sibling, parent, or domestic partner.
That is a solution.  But what if some area changes the law to allow multiple partners?

Absurd, you say.  Of course it is.

However, given that our Chief Justice here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Margaret Marshall, blew the call on Goodridge vs Department of Public Health, I would not be surprised at anything.  And, given the rising number of Muslims in the United States, why would there not eventually be an outcry from that minority for such equity?

Where I think Chief Justice Marshall missed the boat is in not pointing out that state recognition of marriage was a violation of the separation of church and state.  In my humble and non-law school graduate opinion, Ms Marshall should have said that the state is interested in the contracts people make and tying themselves to others is a contract, to be registered with the state.  Marriage is something that happens in a religious context.  If she was going to accept that marriage was in the realm of the state she should have left it with the Great and General Court.  She did, in fact, leave it to the Great and General Court to regulate all other aspects of marriage, having taken same-sex marriage out of their hands.  She apparently believed they were not to be trusted with such a decision.

That and her sociological analysis in the decision left a lot to be desired.

But, back to the issue at hand, I think I have to go with Mr Cones on this.  It seems to me that Archbishop Donald Wuerl and The DC Archdiocese missed the mark on this one.

Regards  —  Cliff


Craig H said...

The part he got right was separating the arbitrary limitation of insurance coverage from the otherwise (at least in this case) irrelevant marital issue.

We argue the strangest things. There is nothing that says that employers and insurers have to consider marriage in how they dole out their health care coverage--they just do, and we unfortunately argue ceaselessly about it ever after. Better we should agree that health benefits need not be arbitrarily limited based on a religious distinction, and leave the "marriage" discussion completely out of it.

In fact, we could treat people equally with very little effort, if we approached everything this way. Our problem is that our laws and our other rules have often relied upon the estate of marriage for much of their structure, and that's never been necessary, or, it proves, in our best interest.

I say treat people equally under the law, and leave the discussion of "marriage" to the religious institutions from which it gains its sanctity.

Renee said...

I can't get Welfare/Mass Health because my the babies' daddy comes through being he is my husband.... Bleh, he doesn't even get a pat on a back rather instead once in a while being reference as repressed Christians or breeders.

Men get woman pregnant, nothing religious there. I think atheist men have the capacity to be equally good husbands and fathers; and that doesn't have to hinge on faith. Marriage in its right frame addresses the inequality, as we see sadly with so many struggling single mothers who don't have the mutual cooperation and financial/emotional support from the father. I understand the Archdiocese of SF view, why should we be discriminating against single people, who aren't in a domestic relationship with a person not of kin. I know a few older single people, never married with no children. Where is their equality?