Monday, March 1, 2010

Catholic Charities chooses worst option for complying with DC law...and pretends it has no choice

The long wait is over. Catholic Charities of Washington, DC has settled upon its response to the District of Columbia's approval of marriage for same-sex couples. Effective tomorrow, its employees will no longer be able to add a spouse to employee health benefit coverage. Spouses who are currently covered will continue to be covered. Catholic Charities describes its response as "necessary to allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide essential services to the clients we serve in partnership with the District of Columbia while remaining consistent with the tenets of our religious faith."

So let's be clear. This response was not necessary. Catholic Charities had other options. As I noted previously, Catholic Charities could have taken advantage of a complex federal law that would have removed it from local anti-discrimination laws (that's what Catholic Charities of Portland, Maine did so that it would not have to comply with Portland's mandate to cover same-sex couples). Or it could have allowed employees to cover another adult in their household as Georgetown University has done. So the decision to disadvantage married heterosexuals was a choice. And it's a choice invidiously designed to breed resentment towards the agency's gay employees, perhaps disguising the real benefit to the agency -- lowering costs by providing fewer benefits to employees.

Seems to me it's time for a social service provider other than Catholic Charities to lure away the dedicated staff at that agency, apply for contracts with the city, and provide comprehensive health benefits to all staff. Any current employee planning to marry (or remarry) would have strong incentive to leave Catholic Charities, and anyone looking for a job as a new hire will prefer an employer who provides health benefits to spouses.

Meanwhile, I presume Catholic Charities still allows an employee to cover his or her children. Under DC law, a woman married to or in a domestic partnership with a woman who gives birth to a child is a parent of that child.

I predict we have not heard the last of this issue. Catholic Charities should be ashamed of itself. Apparently it is not. But no one should be dissuaded from pointing a finger at them and screaming "Shame!" by their bogus claim of necessity. It just isn't so.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm glad to see someone can see through the plan that Catholic Charities has come up with. It's obviously going to stir up resentment towards LGBTQ employees and lower costs for the charity. At the end of the day it's up to each organization to choose for itself how it will be managed, but I hope that the employees of the non-profit will speak up about how this new policy does more harm than good.

Shay Olivarria