Nancy Polikoff

Another Catholic Church Red Herring

Filed By Nancy Polikoff | November 16, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Catholic charities, Catholic church, employee benefits, federal government, insurance laws, marriage equality, red herring

Yesterday I wrote that legislation allowing same-sex marriage will have no impact on the issue of the church's provision of foster care and adoption services, because providing those services is already subject to DC's anti-discrimination laws.

The church makes one other claim: that they will be forced to include same-sex spouses on their employee benefit plans. That, too, is a red herring.

The employee benefit that matters the most and costs the most is health insurance, and here is the only fact about health insurance that matters -- no state (or in this case DC) can make any private employer cover anyone, married or not married, same-sex or different-sex. The federal government has complete control of the rules governing the most important employee benefits, including health insurance and pensions. For this reason, the benefits provided by private employers have been off limits to discrimination charges, even in states that allow same-sex couples to marry.

It is true that states and the District can regulate insurance products. Right now every insurance product offered in the District must treat all married couples identically, including DC same-sex couples married elsewhere. But my guess is that the Catholic Church, including Catholic Charities, self-insures. This means that it doesn't buy an insurance product. red_herring2.gifThis is fairly common for large employers. My employer, American University, self-insures.

Bottom line: DC cannot make the Catholic Church provide health and pension benefits to same-sex spouses. Can't now. Won't be able to once those couples can marry in DC.

So when the church makes the threat that it will stop serving the poor in DC if it has to recognize same-sex married couples, it is a baseless bluff. The church is trying to make the City Council and the public think there is a choice between letting same-sex couples marry and keeping Catholic Charities at work in DC.

But it's another red herring.

Cross-posted at Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage

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Good points all around.

Also, I think it's telling that the Church is literally upset about people having access to health care.

When you can't argue a position on it's merits, some unscrupulous na'er-do-wells resort to lies. The church definitely qualifies as unscrupulous.

The Church has been a master of blackmail throughout history, excommunication, interdict, condemnation for heresy. Threats, rumour and innuendo have been their political stock in trade since the days of the Henry Plantagenet.

Governments have been able to stand up to these in the past, most nitably the old Florentine Medici governments. You just have to realise and to keep in mind that you are dealing with ambitious men, not god.