Debra J. Saunders

 I also recognize that the church has a right to uphold its beliefs and don't believe city governments should tell religious groups what to believe. For its part, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that cited the Levada e-mail: It's an "insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with" the great San Francisco tradition of same-sex families. Being the supes, they threw in some of their favorite adjectives: "hateful," "discriminatory," "insulting" and "callous."

 Certainly the supes have a right to hector the church, even if they miss the irony that they, too, have meddled in the doings of Vatican traditions.

 In 1996, the city required all city contractors to provide staffers with domestic-partner benefits so that same-sex couples would enjoy the same benefits as married couples. Supporters said that the city was barring discrimination against homosexuals. Bunk. Catholic Charities, which provides loving care for those with HIV and AIDS, is hardly out to hurt gays, no matter what the Vatican thinks about homosexuality.

  The 1996 rule was a heavy-handed bit of work designed to force religious people to renounce church doctrine. It wasn't enough that they wanted to house and care for people with AIDS. Noooo, Catholic Charities also had to show it put City Hall doctrine before Vatican policies when it came to gay relationships. Catholic Charities concocted a "creative" agreement in order to let the charity provide staffers with a sexual-orientation-neutral form of partner benefits.

 It was an intolerant squeeze on religious freedom, "viewpoint discrimination." The devout need not apply. A decade later, the city can't pull funding for adoptions because it doesn't give Catholic Charities a dime for its adoption activities. It can, however, withdraw city dollars for Catholic Charities' programs for the homeless and people with HIV/AIDS. Once again, politics could trump healing.

 If the Special City so desires, it can make life hell for a charity that only wants to help people in need. If the Special City likes to, it can conduct another inquisition to make sure that charities strictly adhere to the supervisors' doctrine. Or maybe City Hall has grown up, and now realizes that tolerance is a two-way street.

Debra J. Saunders

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