Alex Blaze

Our politics is more important than your health

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 08, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Catholic charities, Catholic church, health care benefits, left, LGBT, marriage, right, Tim Sawina, Washington D.C.

Here's the former COO of Catholic Charities, which just decided to stop giving everyone health care benefits because of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination legislation:

Some, including the archbishop, have argued that by providing health care to a gay or lesbian spouse we are somehow legitimizing gay marriage. Providing health care to a gay or lesbian partner - a basic human right, according to Church teaching - is an end in itself and no more legitimizes that marriage than giving communion to a divorced person legitimizes divorce, or giving food or shelter to an alcoholic legitimizes alcoholism.

We have a health care system in the US that's based, for better or for worse, on people's employer and marital partner. I don't like that system, and the majority of Americans don't like that system, but, well, it's not like that system, with the huge sacks of money it moves from working Americans to the rich each year, is going to come to an end any time soon.

But an employer providing health care is not an endorsement of America's health care system any more than a Catholic group providing health care for a same-sex partner is an endorsement of homosexuality. And the Catholic Charities knows that - plenty of Catholic organizations have found creative ways around those laws or have just expanded the benefits they give out to include more people than same-sex partners so that it's not specifically about conjugal relationships. They really can't blame their doctrine when other organizations operating under the same doctrine come to better conclusions.

As Nancy Polikoff pointed out last week, their position is so out of line with the reality of the law that their argument has to be disingenuous:

Catholic Charities could have taken advantage of a complex federal law that would have removed it from local anti-discrimination laws (that's what Catholic Charities of Portland, Maine did so that it would not have to comply with Portland's mandate to cover same-sex couples). Or it could have allowed employees to cover another adult in their household as Georgetown University has done. So the decision to disadvantage married heterosexuals was a choice. And it's a choice invidiously designed to breed resentment towards the agency's gay employees, perhaps disguising the real benefit to the agency -- lowering costs by providing fewer benefits to employees.

I agree, and considering the huge and public way Catholic Charities has been going about their decision-making, with press releases and warnings and hand-wringing, it's fairly obvious that they're looking for attention more than they're actually concerned with morality.

The ultimate gain for conservatives here is the way that health care benefits have been politicized. We're not even considering the fact that those benefits mean real access for real sick people to real treatment and real doctors; instead they've been used as a symbol of approval or disapproval, a tool for getting people to fall in line with a powerful entity's agenda. The fact that Catholic Charities' decision could cause some people to die (since I'm sure they'll still be able hire people who either completely believe in their mission or who don't think they'll get sick, even though everyone thinks that) is simply icing on the cake - how often can Respectable and Moral institutions put people's lives at risk in order to advance a political agenda?

It seems to me like Catholic Charities made a great argument for why it shouldn't get government money to do social work. They win all around with this decision, by saving money on health care benefits that are getting more expensive every day, by creating resentment among straight employees for LGBT rights as they see a good organization forced to cut benefits, and by making a very public decision that makes it seem like the DC City Council choose gays over children. But should social charities really be making decisions that way?

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It is about the attention that it gets from these actions and the way it sets itself up to be seen as the champion for the 'right' it is the press that it wants.

Should read:

"We have a health care system in the US that's PRIMARILY based, for better or for worse, on people's employer and, SOMETIMES, marital partner."

Per HRC: At least one out of EVERY three employers, including the majority of the largest employers (with 5,000+ employees), now provide benefits to same-sex partners of employees. Also:

83% of Fortune 100 companies;

59% of Fortune 500 companies; &

40% of Fortune 1000 companies offer medical benefits for same-gender partners of their employees. "Regardless of business size, the trend toward domestic partner benefits is increasing, with substantial gains among the largest employers."

[Such fairness from employers comes with discrimination from the federal government, and that applies to heterosexual domestic partners, too. "Employees with partner health benefits now pay on average $1,069 more in taxes per year than would a married employee with the same coverage."]

FURTHER re word choice: "working Americans" and "the rich" are not mutually exclusive.

The medical insurance business is what we used to call "a license to steal," and the abuse of tax exempt status by churches is outright stealing.

Serious regulation of the former will not happen for years and serious regulation of the latter will not happen in the lifetimes of most of us. Our only hope is to force both to regulate themselves, and that is not through civil legislation but through civil disobedience.

And then some people get their health care through medicaid, medicare, the va, or just paying for it out of pocket. YMMV.

PS: See a possible way around having the cost of medical benefits for your partner treated by your employer as taxable extra income for you in Davina Kotulski's thread above.

The sad part is that God told them specifically to work with the sick and the orphans. So they've stopped doing adoptions and won't offer partner benefits.

Yeah, the church is on the right track...

A. J. Lopp | March 9, 2010 2:02 PM

Bil, your comment has encouraged me to submit something I earlier decided not to:

Interesting that Jesus provided His own form of health care to a same-sex couple (the Centurion and his ill slave, Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10) but the Catholic Charities make a big point of refusing not to. Too bad Jesus had such a terrible time getting his message across about the importance of extending compassion to your neighbor.

But then, Jesus also told the Jews to pay appropriate taxes, and neglected to carve out an exception even when the taxing authority is officially pagan and virtually institutionalizes homosexuality. I expect that Catholic Charities has turned a deaf ear to those words from Jesus also.

twinkie1cat | March 9, 2010 7:05 PM

God does not like ugly. Catholic Social Services is going to lose its reputation for quality services as well as its money. I wish there was a moderate group as big and as organized that could take over, but for a while people are going to suffer. But that seems to be what they want in order to get their way. They are also a big non-supporter of Pres. Obama's health care plan because, as with other so-called prolifers, they want stronger restrictions on abortion. So they would hurt everyone in order to discriminate against a few. The Catholic church has always been political, throughout history, but it has only been in the last few years, especially since they were embarrassed by the pedophile priests and they lost a lot of money to lawsuits that they have gotten this hateful. When conservatives are exposed, they get nasty.

You atheists remember now: Christians as a whole do not act like these people. A big part of Jesus's ministry was healing sick people and he did not care who they were, including the same sex partner of a Roman Centurion.