The D.C. Council passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage this Tuesday, despite threats from the Catholic Church that it would terminate all social services contracts with the city if the bill passed.
Catholic Charities currently provides services to 68,000 District residents. If Catholic Charities continues its social service contract with D.C., it would need to comply with the new city law by providing equal spousal benefits to same-sex couples.
The Catholic Church is currently working with City Council to modify the bill in a way that would allow Catholic Charities to continue providing social services while maintaining D.C.’s recognition of same-sex marriages. The legislation will be subject to a final vote by the Council in two weeks before reaching Mayor Adrian Fenty’s (D) desk.
“We’ll continue to work with members of the Council,” Susan Gibbs, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of D.C. said.
Although many council members have cited Georgetown University—which extends spousal benefits to any adult partner without explicitly recognizing same-sex marriage—as a possible model for Catholic Charities, Gibbs said the comparison is not relevant.
“It was a different issue at a different time,” Gibbs said.
That explanation has not satisfied the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., a local gay rights organization that has advocated for same-sex marriage.
“It’s outrageous for them to try to hold the city hostage,” Rick Rosendoll, GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs, said. “I think they’re trying to bully the city into getting their way, with the idea perhaps that they can get Congress to intervene on their behalf.”
However the possibility of Congressional intervention appears less likely, according to Ben Young, Chief of Staff for David Catania (I-At Large) (SFS ‘90, LAW ‘94), the council member who introduced the bill.
“There’s always a fear, but we feel reasonably optimistic that Congress will respect the District’s home rule,” he said.