Two weeks ago, just after the Maine’s successful reversal of the state legislature’s decision to sanction same-sex marriage, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer asked me a profound question: “Would Jesus have spent $550,000 to oppose same-sex marriage?”
The question was exactly what many secular parties had been asking in Portland, Maine, where she was speaking to me by satellite. My answer was that Jesus would have given the money to oppose same-sex marriage. My reasoning was simple: Jesus would have upheld his own teaching; refusing to be a loving, permanent enabler of a misguided local government. I mentioned in the interview that Washington, DC was struggling with the same question.
Since the interview, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington gave notice to the DC City Council that if it approves the currently proposed same-sex marriage legislation, there will be dire consequences for the city. DC’s same-sex marriage bill undoubtedly will be passed next month. Although the bill does not require religious organizations to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings, it would require that religious charities obey new marriage laws. This could require the Catholic Archdiocese to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples. Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese explained, “If the city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular… that’s really a problem.” Gibbs noted that any religious group that receives city funds would be required to give same-sex couples healthcare benefits, open adoptions to same-sex couples, and rent church space to a support group for same-sex couples.
Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the city. This includes one-third of the District’s homeless people who use the city-owned shelters, which are managed by the church. All in all, Catholic Charities donates $10 million annually for its work in the capital city. If other denominations and independent churches withdraw the help, the city could be left with a gaping hole in its social safety net.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.