Although their efforts have been unsuccessful thus far, council members in Washington, D.C are pushing for a compromise with the Archdiocese of Washington to ensure that the Church will not pull its social services contract if the council legalizes same-sex "marriage."
On Dec. 1, council members are scheduled to vote on a bill which would legalize same sex 'marriage' in D.C. and require Catholic Charities and other religious institutions to “recognize and promote” it as Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl has previously stated.
According to the Washington Post, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has said that it would be “very much desired” that jurisdictions “accommodate” Catholic Charities. Norton, who spoke briefly with Archbishop Wuerl on Thursday, has also expressed a desire to resolve the dispute without Congress having to get involved.
In addition to this, Council members David A. Catina (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) sent Archbishop Wuerl a letter on Thursday urging Catholic Charities to adopt a policy like the one currently held by Georgetown University. The policy in effect at Georgetown is said to give benefits to same-sex couples but does not officially recognize that the couples are the same sex.
In their proposal, Catina and Mendelson have also asked Archbishop Wuerl to consider the policies in effect at the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco Archdiocese enacted a policy that allowed for the employed member of a same-sex union to claim his or her partner as a “legally domiciled member of the employee's household” who would then receive benefits equivalent to that of a spouse.
Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington has said that although Archbishop Wuerl is reviewing the letter, she is not confident that the proposal addresses the Church's concerns.
Previously on Nov. 17, Archbishop Wuerl had asked in an essay for “new language” to be developed “that more fairly balances different interests – those of the city to redefine marriage and those of faith groups so that they can continue to provide services without compromising their deeply held religious teachings and beliefs.”
Gibbs told the Washington Post earlier today that although staff at the archdiocese is glad that city officials are “finally responding” to the need for new language, they are not certain that the most recent proposal mitigates the Church's concerns. Archdiocesan leaders have also wondered how the council can equate domestic partnership, as is the case in San Francisco, with same-sex 'marriage'.
Archbishop Wuerl has previously written that Catholic Charities assists 68,000 people each year by by means of shelter, food, medical and legal care, job training, immigration assistance and other services and that this assistance is provided to whoever needs it, regardless of sexual orientation.