Wednesday, November 25, 2009

RICHMOND | The governors of Virginia and Maryland, both Catholics, said Tuesday that it would be wrong for the church to suspend or reduce social services in the nation’s capital if the District approves gay marriage.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley criticized the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s response to the District’s gay marriage proposal during a joint appearance on Washington radio station WTOP.

The D.C. Council is expected to approve gay marriage next month. The archdiocese says that unless the proposal is amended to add a religious exemption, its Catholic Charities won’t be able to continue contracts with the city to run homeless shelters and provide other services to needy residents.

“I’m Catholic and I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Kaine, who also is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said of the church’s position. “I don’t think you take your ball and go home.”

Said Mr. O’Malley: “It would be very, very sad for all concerned. I don’t understand how they can possibly do this.”

Catholic Charities provides social services to about 68,000 people, many through contracts with the city. The organization says that because of church teaching that marriage must be between a man and a woman, it cannot place children for adoption or foster care by same-sex couples or offer employee benefits to gay married couples.

Without a religious exemption, the organization would have to either go against those beliefs or refuse to certify that it is complying with all city laws, the archdiocese says. The city would withhold contract approval if Catholic Charities refused to certify adherence to the gay marriage law, the church says.

The archdiocese says on its Web site, MarriageMatters, that it will continue to provide social services even if the gay marriage proposal passes, but that without contracts with the city, the resources to continue that work would be diminished.

Archdiocese officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statements made by Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Kaine.

The council has set its first vote on the gay marriage proposal for Dec. 1. The measure must be voted on twice for passage.

Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Connecticut already allow same-sex marriage. New Hampshire will join them Jan. 1.

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