That Sure Is A Nice Social Service Contract You Have There...

...it would be a shame if anything happened to it.

That's basically what the Catholic Church is telling the D.C. city council, in an effort to get them to drop an anti-discrimination clause in the same-sex marriage bill that's going to a vote soon. The Church's social services division currently serves 68,000 Washingtonians, including a third of the homeless who use the city's facilities run by the Church. According to the Washington Post, "fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city."

Taking on the Church's attempt to strong-arm the city council, Jamelle Bouie explains how the politicization of the Church has shifted in recent years:

Conservative evangelicals have been thoroughly politicized for nearly three decades and the focus of their rage has always been the nation’s “moral decline,” in the form of reproductive freedom and gay rights. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has always been a bit more measured in its approach. This might be my naivety talking, but I expected a bit more of the Catholic leadership. Sure, the Catholic Church isn’t particularly enamored of gays, but as an institution (and at least in the United States) it’s always seemed much more concerned with fighting the war on poverty than the war on gays. What’s more, unlike evangelicals – who are overwhelmingly Southern and conservative – Catholics represent a wider geographic and ideological cross-section of America, which had a moderating influence on the church’s leadership.

But things changed, and in the past decade or so, Catholic leadership has become more and more committed to a socially conservative political agenda. If given the choice between saving the needy and sticking it to the gays, these Church “elders” would rather let 68,000 of the most vulnerable Washingtonians suffer in the dead of winter than have to extend basic legal protections to gay people.

However, the Church's influence over the city council seems to be limited, and its presence as a social service provider may not irreplaceable. Council member David A. Cantania, who sponsored the bill, says, "They don't represent, in my mind, an indispensable component of our social services infrastructure."

--Shani O. Hilton

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