Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Catholic Church's red herring #2

Yesterday I wrote that legislation allowing same-sex marriage will have no impact on the issue of the church's provision of foster care and adoption services, because providing those services is already subject to DC's antidiscrimination laws.

The church makes one other claim: that they will be forced to include same-sex spouses on their employee benefit plans. That, too, is a red herring. The employee benefit that matters the most and costs the most is health insurance, and here is the only fact about health insurance that matters -- no state (or in this case DC) can make any private employer cover anyone, married or not married, same-sex or different-sex. The federal government has complete control of the rules governing the most important employee benefits, including health insurance and pensions. For this reason, the benefits provided by private employers have been off limits to discrimination charges, even in states that allow same-sex couples to marry.

It is true that states and the District can regulate insurance products. Right now every insurance product offered in the District must treat all married couples identically, including DC same-sex couples married elsewhere. I explain this here. But my guess is that the Catholic Church, including Catholic Charities, self-insures. This means that it doesn't buy an insurance product. This is fairly common for large employers. My employer, American University, self-insures.

Bottom line: DC cannot make the Catholic Church provide health and pension benefits to same-sex spouses. Can't now. Won't be able to once those couples can marry in DC.

So when the church makes the threat that it will stop serving the poor in DC if it has to recognize same-sex married couples, it is a baseless bluff. The church is trying to make the City Council and the public think there is a choice between letting same-sex couples marry and keeping Catholic Charities at work in DC. But it's another red herring.


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John said...

I heard you on Kojo today, and wanted to say thank you. It’s SO nice to hear a fighting voice with clear, accurate information. I'm not sure where HRC, or others organizations are, but we need some leadership who can get the information out, and fight. I’m tired of losing these battles around the nation, and I don’t want it to happen in my own back yard. Please, please get out there and lead this fight against Catholic Charities!

Robert said...

Keep on fighting and speaking up! We need scholars like yourself to help clear up misinformation. I heard you on Kojo and you were spot-on.

hillarythrasher said...

Just wanted to echo my gratitude for yesterday's contribution to Kojo's show.

Nancy Polikoff said...

Thanks for the comments. Please keep correcting the media when they parrot what the church says about the consequences of marriage equality!

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