Ed Feulner

Some doubt this will matter much. “They don’t represent, in my mind, an indispensable component of our social services infrastructure,” District Council member David Catania told The Washington Post. Catania sponsored the same-sex marriage bill.

But make no mistake -- this is a decision with long-range consequences.

Statesman Edmund Burke once celebrated the “little platoons” of citizens in free countries who voluntarily band together to help others. These groups make a country better, and they save taxpayers millions.

Catholic Charities is just such a group. It encourages its employees and countless members of Catholic churches to get involved in helping the less fortunate.

The group serves nearly 80,000 people each year. Even without the foster care and adoption services, it operates 82 social-service programs in the District of Columbia. But with D.C.’s same-sex law, Catholic Charities will find it more difficult to complete missions or hire employees.

That’s because, instead of offering spousal health insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of homosexual employees it hires, the organization has decided to stop offering spousal benefits to any new employees.

The outcome is predictable. Under its new restrictions, Catholic Charities won’t be able to accomplish as much. Needy District residents will turn to other providers chosen by the D.C. government, which has lost the benefit of Catholic agencies’ full experience and character. An already tight budget will be stretched even more. Meanwhile, fewer private citizens will join the important work of helping their fellow Americans.

The law of unintended consequences has come into play. Lawmakers set out to protect the rights of one group, but ended up trampling the religious rights of another. In the end, it is District residents who will suffer -- and pay -- for that decision.

Ed Feulner

Dr. Edwin Feulner is Founder of The Heritage Foundation, a Townhall.com Gold Partner, and co-author of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today .
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