Representatives of the Archdiocese of Washington spoke in support of natural marriage and religious freedom at a hearing examining proposed same-sex “marriage” legislation in the District of Columbia.
In testimony before the D.C. City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary on October 26, the archdiocese stated its opposition to proposed legislation that would redefine marriage and infringe upon religious liberty.
On October 6, D.C. Council member David A. Catania, one of two open homosexuals on the council, introduced the same-sex “marriage” bill, with nine of the thirteen council members and Mayor Adrian Fenty expressing support for the measure.
The council is expected to vote on the bill by December. If passed, the measure would also have to be approved by Congress, which has 30 days to review City Council legislation before it becomes law.
The archdiocese said it “opposes this legislation and any effort to redefine marriage as other than that between a man and a woman. Furthermore, the Archdiocese has deep concerns that this bill would restrict the free exercise of religious beliefs if it is passed as drafted.”
Prominence is given in the diocesan statement to the legislation’s lack of exemption for individuals who may have religious objections to providing services for same-sex couples.
“The expected effect … if enacted without expanded protection for religious conscience, would be to put the Archdiocese (and its employees) in a position that is simply untenable under the First Amendment: the District will effectively force the Archdiocese either to violate the law or to abandon forms of religious practice – care for the poor, hungry and homeless – that are fundamental to the practice of Catholic social teaching.”
In addition, the archdiocese noted that the legislation, besides overturning the definition of marriage, has no exemptions for churches, religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus or religiously-owned nonprofits such as Catholic Charities, if those organizations provide services to the general public or rent space to individuals or groups outside of their faith.
These religious organizations would be at risk of lawsuits if, for example, they decline to offer their facilities to same sex couples or to limit married student housing to couples of the opposite sex.
“Every year, Catholic Charities provides shelter, food, counseling, medical and legal assistance, and more, to 68,000 people in the District of Columbia regardless of their faith,” said Ed Orzechowski, president/CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, in a press release.
“If the Council passes this bill as written, these programs are at risk along with nearly 100 different parish social ministry programs, all of the other ministries operated by the Catholic Church and even meeting space for groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Scouts and neighborhood organizations who partner with churches.”
The full text of the Archdiocese of Washington’s written testimony, and other related information, is available here.