Catholic Church abandons foster children over DC gay marriage law

The Supreme Court yesterday chose not to block DC’s gay marriage law. This means same sex couples should be able to apply for marriage licenses in the nation’s capital today.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which threatened to abandon their contracts for providing social services in DC if gay marriage became law, has already ended its foster care program. And starting yesterday Catholic Charities no longer provides benefits to spouses of new employees or those who are not currently enrolled in a health care plan. Because opposing gay marriage is way more important than the health care of employee’s families.

These moves are despicable. And attempts by the Archdiocese to blame the new same sex marriage law are ridiculous. The law didn’t force the Archdiocese to abandon children in foster care or screw over their employee’s families. The blame sits squarely on the shoulders of church leadership that’s decided to prioritize a commitment to discrimination over valuable social services work.

The church faced two options with the approval of the new law, said Robert Tuttle, a George Washington University professor who studies the relationship between church and state. One choice was to expand the definition of domestic partner, as the Archdiocese in San Francisco did years ago, to include a parent, sibling or someone else in the household.

The second choice was to do what the Washington Archdiocese has done: eliminate benefits for all spouses.

Or, you know, stop with their obsessive homophobia.

Congratulations to those who will soon be able to get legally married, and shame on the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Phenicks

    I think the best response anyone could give to this would be to start a charity for foster children in DC and push for universal healthcare in Washington, DC. Trying to shame the Catholic Church into doing it just doesn’t make sense. Charities are not guranteed and are always at the mercy of whoever starts/controls it. Want to decide the terms of a charity, then you really have to make moves to start your own.
    What has congress said on it?

  • MiriamCT1

    I’m shocked over this, but my mother the ex-Catholic, is unsurprised. It’s so sad, the inhumanness of this. Just what Jesus would want.

  • Nurse_PhD

    Am I surprised? Not.
    The Catholic Church takes pride in its anachronistic, and often counterproductive, “human service” policies. What can one expect from an organization dominated by aged white men? Relevance? Not.

  • Nicole

    This is terrible news for the children’s rights movement, but still fantastic progress on the gay rights front – what the Catholic Archdiocese is pulling here is a publicity stunt and a morality bribe. I agree with Phenicks that the best response to this will be to call them on their bullshit, completely ignore them, and start an alternative foster care charity – all it takes is someone with the means and initiative to start it. (Easier said than done, I know, but here’s to hoping.)

  • Athenia

    Actually, is this charity actually affliated with the Catholic Church? The article says it’s a private nonprofit.
    My church offers its space to the local homeless shelter for a few weeks out of the year–volunteers help run it.

  • Steveo

    This seems about par for the course for the Catholic church. I also like the idea of starting a charity for DC area foster children. If the catholic church stops doing these services over this, imagine what they are indoctrinating the children with as well?

  • anitasaber

    I’d like to ask them what abandoning foster children has to do with gay marriage….there’s no correlation whatsoever! Except maybe…the gay married couples could become foster parents, we all now know there’s a need for them in DC! I hope that would be allowed.Poor children, they’re innocent victims once again.
    On a different note though, I would like to ask Feministing and it’s commenters to refer to the Roman Catholic Church as just that….ROMAN Catholic Church. There are other, much less oppressive, Catholic denominations in the US and abroad, and personally as a member of a non-oppressive one, I’m not a fan of being generalized as a Roman Catholic. My denomination would never act as the Roman Catholic Church is! Thanks.

  • Dawn.

    It’s quite telling that sustaining their draconian values, like those of the religious right in general, supersedes any truly Christ-like pursuits. Maintaining a patriarchal society is clearly objective No 1.

  • cattrack2

    Agreed. I’m a big believer in separation of Church & State. You can’t really expect a religious institution to violate its own views, but at the same time there’s no reason that DC has to subsidize discrimination. The best thing for all concerned is for them to go their separate ways. The Catholic Church can practice its religion as it sees fit, and DC can begin working with organizations which don’t discriminate.

  • asseenontv

    I suppose that shows that if you really on faith-based groups to provide social services then they’ll try to use that to hold you hostage.
    If you notice, it is common right wing rhetoric that the government shouldn’t be engaged in social services because that is “God’s holy church’s” job. I think this incident makes a lot of their reasoning behind that clear.

  • asseenontv

    By the way, I’m sure a big contributing factor is that the Catholic Church is in poor financial health. Priests have told me that they don’t expect the Catholic school system to last another twenty years.
    You see it turns out that while some people are against homosexuality, almost everyone outside the College of Cardinals is even more against child molestation. And they tend to not want to give money to organizations that seem to condone it.
    I mean the Catholic Church is now running commercials for being Catholic. To call that an act of desperation is an understatement.

  • Toongrrl
  • Phenicks

    Precisely! In DC its hard to start a charity without a religious basis , the mayor and the council made it so, but it most certainly is NOT impossible. There are plenty of citizens who WANT to help but funding gets so tied up so quickly in DC because there are so many other things going on and so many other places for the money to go. Everybody has a cause in DC and everybody needs funding and a greenlight.
    The Archdiosese would be one less in the long line of people getting a piece of the pie and leaves room for another to squeeze in and fill the void.

  • saintcatherine

    I really wish that some of the discussion that came u last time this was presented (as a possibility, then) would have made its way into this one here.
    For example, Catholic Charities is not *legally* allowed to place foster children in homes where the parents are not a heterosexual married couple. They are not able to just do whatever they want and be CAtholic Charities. Jos, you write it as if it just a matter of “standing up for what is right.” Nor is the CAtholic Church going to say, “OK well we can go against our teachings and beiefs because we feel bad about D.C. government not believing what we do.”
    Also, the American CAtholic bishops have been one of the mjor groups lobbying for universal health care coverage (particularly for poor women and children) and thus the suggestion that the –usually very liberal– Catholic Charities is cutting off health benefits just to save a buck. I believe that they probably would have been happy to be more liberal in their understanding of domestic partner but for the fact that the archbishop is extremely traditional about such things and prhaps has been influencing that process.
    But the cited article itself illustrates how much one bishop can change stuff on that levl at least, and therefore the attempt to paint the entire church as money-grubbing and/or just plain hateful and discriminatory is a superficial one. If people want to analyze religion then perhaps they should actually know something about how they work, first.

  • sarah_steel

    Interesting points, saintcatherine. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the diversity of the Catholic church and the very liberal pursuits of many orders. The Catholic church does some really incredible work all over the world, yet the actions of one organization is enough to discredit the entire church? Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fan of the Pope or the hierarchy of the church, but individual members and parishes amaze me every day (and some of the most liberal, compassionate, and even–gasp!– gay-friendly people I’ve ever met are devout Catholics.)
    I certainly don’t agree with the actions of Catholic Charities. Perhaps I’m ignorant about the way the gay marriage law will affect Catholic Charities’ services. If the law causes direct conflict with the beliefs of these Catholics, I fully support their decision to withdraw their services in order to stay true to their beliefs. We can’t underestimate the importance of religion in a believer’s life; religion is not a hat you can put on every Sunday and take off when you walk into work Monday morning. Agree with them or not, people SHOULD be guided by their values, religious or otherwise. I’m certainly not going to take off my feminist hat when I go to work; no one else should be expected to compromise their deepest held beliefs, either. (Obviously, in cases where some sort of religious conviction drives someone to destructive or violent acts, we shouldn’t be so understanding. But so long as no one is directly harmed, religious liberty must be maintained. I’m assuming those under Catholic Charities’ services will be inconvenienced by their decision, but let’s not pretend that it’s the same as violent fundamentalism, k?)
    I suppose I’m getting off-track a bit here, but in essence I’m trying to say I certainly agree with your comment that this discussion is lacking an understanding of the opposition and drawing unfair conclusions about the Church and religious people in general.
    Yeah, I’m a far-left pro-choice queer feminist / wanna-be Catholic who attends a Catholic university and volunteers for Catholic Charities. :) These identities come into conflict daily but I fully believe there’s a way to reconcile feminism and Catholicism and to be incredibly liberal but accept opposition from religious parties who mean well (even as they fall short of my personal and politics ideals.)
    I’ll say it again: DC Catholic Charities really fucked this one up. But they do and should have that right. Hopefully someone else can step in to aid those who have been abandoned by CC.