Sunday, November 22, 2009

Catholic Charities of DC President questioned on Kojo Nnamdi

The President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Washington DC, Ed Orzechowski, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show last week. You want to listen to this show. I had the opportunity to call in, but even before taking my question and comments on the air, Kojo pressed his guest on his agency's policies, asking him repeatedly if his agency's policies were already in violation of DC non-discrimination law. Mr. Orzechowski said, among other things, that Catholic Charities places children with gay and lesbian individuals as foster and adoptive parents, but that couples must be married. When Kojo repeated the question as to whether that already puts the agency in violation of existing laws, the guest said that the District was aware of their policies. He did not say that the policy complied with the law.

Right. As I've written about, the District -- like the gay community -- has let the discrimination slide. But if the church is going to rub our nose in it, well, that's uping the ante. And by the way, if anyone reading this is, or knows of, a gay or lesbian individual who has sought approval as a foster or adoptive parent from Catholic Charities in DC, I would love to hear from that person. I'm skeptical. If such approval has ever happened, I wonder if a person living with a partner is excluded, even as an individual, from adopting or fostering a child. (Let's not even go to where it is so clearly better for a child to have two loving, cooperating parents than one...)

To my point that federal law gives private employers the abililty to ignore local anti-discrimination laws when it comes to employee health and pension benefits, Mr. Orzechowski first said that they did not want to stop providing employee benefits altogether. When I pointed out that this was misleading because they can continue to provide heterosexual married couples with benefits, he said, "We want to abide by all the laws." He did not respond at all to my comment that Catholic Charities of Maine continues to provide benefits to heterosexual married couples but not to same-sex couples, in spite of local law, and that this is legal because of federal law. Frankly, the answer that they want to abide by all the laws is laughable. It is the law, federal ERISA law, that gives private employers to the right not to follow local laws. Lots of private employers around the country are allowed to discriminate because of this.

One more thing. When Council Member David Catania appeared on Kojo's Friday show (the Politics Hour), Kojo asked him about whether Catholic Charities was already in violation of DC anti-discrimination law with respect to adoption and foster care. CM Catania said this was unlitigated. That's true because, as I've said, gay men and lesbians are approved by the city and by other agencies and so there has never been a reason to pick a fight with them. Now it's Catholic Charities picking the fight.

By the way, with respect to employee benefits, CM Catania is now arguing what amounts to a page right out of my book...that Catholic Charities can cover on an employee's benefits one other adult household member, and then it is not about marriage at all. He points out, quite rightly, that Georgetown University, also a Catholic institution, does this through covering a person they call a "legally domiciled adult," someone with a "close personal relationship" with the employee. When I discuss this in my book I note a limitation with the Georgetown policy, that it does not extend coverage to the LDA's children. But since DC parentage law now makes the nonbiological mother a parent from the moment of birth, that is less of an issue here.


Anonymous said...

In Boston a few years ago, the Catholic "suddenly" realized it had place about 15 children with LGBT parents over the years. The memory was, of course, fueled by the first LGBT weddings. They announced that they would no longer work to place any children, anywhere, so that arm of Catholic Charities no longer exists. More than half of their board resigned in protest over the decision to exclude LGBT candidates for foster parents and adoptions. I think that surprised the higher-ups in the archdioceses.

Ken Harvey

Hunter Stuart said...

Here's a good video that examines DC gay marriage/catholic charities services, with interviews from both sides:

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