By Michelle Boorstein
After weeks of heated back-and-forth between the D.C. City Council and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, could one side be backing down? And if so, which side?
The Council gave its final approval Tuesday to the measure, which archdiocesan officials say will require the church to violate its teachings if it wants to keep partnering with the District on social service work. Church officials have said they cannot, among other things, extend benefits to partners of gays and lesbians they employ if that means acknowledging those relationships as “marriages,” nor do they want to put adoptive or foster children with same-sex couples. Mayor Adrian Fenty is expected to sign the bill this week and then it has a 30-day review period with Congress before taking effect likely in the spring.
The church was unable, despite its lobbying efforts, to get the council to amend the measure, but on Tuesday church officials seemed to be backing away from the idea that tens of millions of dollars of social service programming was about to collapse. Before the vote, church officials had said if the proposal passed, it would make it impossible for the two sides to work together.
“Catholic Charities is committed to working with the City Council, DC agencies and the Mayor to move forward in the most positive manner possible for the residents of the District who rely on our services,” said a statement last night by Catholic Charities.
And from the archdiocese: “We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church,” said its statement.
But how? Is this a game of chicken or has a deal already been struck that both sides don’t want to admit – and risk angering their constituents? Church officials won’t be specific about what compromises they might be willing to live with nor what – if anything – is on the table. And Council officials simply say the two sides are still talking. An amendment could be added, but would have to go back through the full council process, which could take months.
Let us know if you have any concrete tips on how this might get resolved.