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November 15, 2009

WaPo's discordant editorial on the Catholic Church and marriage equality

The Washington Post, a longtime supporter of marriage equality, has a strange editorial in its Sunday edition in which it makes the Catholic Church's case for a broader exemption to enable it to discriminate against gay couples. It starts by making a howlingly false assertion:

You might not realize, given the fury between Catholic Charities and the D.C. Council, that the Catholic Church is not trying to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage in the District. Rather, the battle is over the impact that the legislation could have on the vital services it provides.

Catholic Charities is concerned that the current draft would force it to choose between upholding its religious beliefs and complying with the District's human rights law in order to maintain city contracts. The clash raises tough questions. But they strike us as solvable, if council members shelve the self-righteousness and look for solutions.

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment of 2009 would legalize same-sex marriage in the District. It would not require any religious organizations to carry out such marriages. But the church worries that it would have to offer health benefits to same-sex spouses of employees and facilitate adoptions by same-sex couples, both of which it says would violate its religious beliefs.

The editorialist is right: I do not realize any such thing. Archbishop Wuerl issued a statement strongly endorsing the proposed ballot initiative to define marriage in the District as between one man and one woman. If that is not opposition to same-sex marriage, there isn't any. I have submitted a response to the Post; we will see if they run it.

Update: GLAA President Mitch Wood points to the following video of a panel of witnesses representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington who testified on Oct. 26th on the proposed marriage equality bill. Diocesan Director of Communications Susan Gibbs states, "We do oppose the redefinition of marriage and we are opposed to this bill."

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I posted the following comment to the editorial:

It took me all of 15 seconds to locate, via Youtube, video of the panel of representatives from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington who testified on Oct. 26th on the proposed marriage equality legislation.

Please check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVj50a2dt4Y where Diocesan Director of Communications Susan Gibbs clearly states "we do oppose the redefinition of marriage and we are opposed to this bill."

How can the Washington Post's editorial board possibly square this with its unsupported assertion that "the Catholic Church is not trying to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage in the District"?

Further, from the Archdiocese's website: The Archdiocese of Washington testified before the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary of the District of Columbia City Council on Oct. 26, 2009 in support of marriage and religious liberty, and against proposed legislation to redefine marriage.

And from the very first sentence of the diocese's testimony, linked at http://www.adw.org/family/marriage_ssm.asp "... we appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today on behalf of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to express our opposition to Bill 18-0482, which would redefine marriage to include same-sex unions."

At best, lazy lazy lazy, representative of an editorial staff not doing the elementary homework on a very contentious issue.

At worst, a willful distortion of the Diocese's position.

Which is it?

It is this kind of shoddy journalism that depresses the Post's circulation and raises real questions about the credibility and professionalism of the Post's reporting.

The Post's readers, the City Council, and the District's LBGT community deserve far better.

I look forward to reading a quick correction of this blatant error.

What got me about the Post editorial was its refusal to suggest what kind of "compromise" might be possible that might appease Holy Mother The Church (or HMTC, Inc., as I prefer to call it). It insisted there has to be a middle way, yet couldn't explain where that might be. Bizarre. I thought Mr. Capehart had more sense than this editorial revealed.

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