The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., says it will cease its charitable services in the city if a proposed ordinance to allow same-sex marriages isn’t changed.
And so far, most city council members are resisting the Catholic Church's demand.
The proposed law would require religious organizations to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians, though churches wouldn’t have to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings.
Catholic Charities, the church's social services arm, receives funds from the city, so church officials are worried that it would have to provide employee benefits and allow adoptions to same-sex couples. It has asked to be exempted from any requirement to do so.
Several council members have expressed opposition to that request. "Allowing individual exemptions opens the door for anyone to discriminate based on assertions of religious principle," Councilman Phil Mendelson told The Associated Press.
Catholic Charities now has city contracts to assist about 68,000 people in the city with adoption, homelessness, and healthcare services. The archdiocese generally has stayed out of city politics, but this issue pressed it to speak up.
“If the city requires this, we can't do it," archdiocesan spokeswoman Susan Gibbs told The Washington Post. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."
The conflict may be the strongest between a local or state government and a faith-based group providing charity services.
The Catholic Church had a strong influence on the healthcare bill that passed the U.S. House last weekend. The church helped convince House members to support an amendment that would prevent federal funds from being used to finance abortions.
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