CFI calls on City Council to maintain its commitment to marriage equality

November 13, 2009

District's Neediest Threatened by Archdiocese's Unwillingness to Recognize Equal Rights

Washington, D.C. (November 13, 2009)-The Center for Inquiry D.C. (CFI-D.C.) calls on the D.C. City Council to maintain current language in the proposed same-sex marriage legislation that is scheduled for vote by the full Council in December. The D.C. City Council is under pressure from the Catholic Church to drop or radically amend the proposed legislation. In a recent statement, Susan Gibbs of the Archdiocese of Washington stated that the proposed new legislation "could prevent social service providers such as Catholic Charities from continuing their long-term partnerships with the District government." Effectively, the archdiocese is threatening to stop providing charitable services-including feeding and clothing the homeless-through city-sponsored programs because of its unbending stance against equal rights for same-sex couples. The archdiocese claims that it cannot recognize the legitimacy of same-sex unions and, therefore, the new law would leave them open to legal action due to lack of religious exemptions for "employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples." However, according to the New York Times, "religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex weddings or make space available for them."

"The statement by the archdiocese is very troubling. Catholic Charities should not discriminate against gay couples while entering into city contracts funded with taxpayer money," said Melody Hensley, executive director of CFI-D.C. "We hope that their dogmatic opposition to equal rights does not interfere with their provision of city services to its most needy residents."

CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay added, "This threat by the Catholic Church to withhold services on religious grounds proves the folly of relying on faith-based charities. For them, religious dogma always takes precedence over providing needed services."

The Center for Inquiry supports the separation of church and state in all matters of public policy, and calls on the D.C. City Council to enact the proposed legislation that would allow District same-sex couples to marry. As Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) stated, "The problem with the individual exemption (for same-sex equality) is anybody could discriminate based on their assertion of religious principle... There were many people back in the 1950s and '60s, during the civil rights era, that said separation of the races was ordained by God." This is in agreement with CFI's long-held position that public policy should promote equality and liberty of all peoples and should derive from sound reason and respect for human rights, not from antiquated religious texts.

For more information, contact Melody Hensley at (202) 546-2332, ext. 111, or mhensley@centerforinquiry.net.

The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York, is also home to the Council for Secular Humanism, founded in 1980; and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP), founded in 1976. The Center for Inquiry's research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and sound public policy. The Center's Web site is www.centerforinquiry.net.

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