Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A small example of how inaccuracies are passed off as facts

I was just reading the notes that were taken during the discussion on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the same-sex marriage bill in New Jersey.  These notes can be found on the terrific blog, Box Turtle Bulletin.   Timothy Kincaid took detailed notes and commentary all evening.  Some of what he heard are the same old notions of male/female marriage being the "gold standard" to which all should strive to achieve.  One senator pointed out that homosexual activity in prison was evidence that being gay was a choice.  And as Kincaid notes, anti-equality folks are incapable of saying the word gay.  It's always homosexual, just to remind you again that gay relationships are all about sex.

Part way through the hearing Kincaid writes that someone has stated that Catholic Charities in Massachusetts lost its license to provide adoption after same-ex marriage was deemed constitutional.  Then he writes in parenthesis, completely untrue.

And it most certainly is.  This is an important point, because religious exemptions have been proposed to many of the marriage bills, including this one in New Jersey.  They have been seen as friendly amendments, not proposed changes to water down the law or lessen chances of its passage.  I haven't spoken to any same-sex marriage supporter who believes that churches should be required to marry same-sex couples.  Separation of Church and State means just that.  But this is the fear that is being fostered.  And as long as a falsehood like Catholic Charities in Massachusetts lost its license to provide adoption is allowed to go unquestioned, these falsehoods will continue perpetuating that fear.

The story with Catholic Charities in Massachusetts is quite simple.  For 103 years, the organization placed children in foster homes, including some foster homes with same-sex couples.  This was what the organization did.  After same-sex marriage became an option in Massachusetts, the Catholic Church, having spent over a million dollars trying to defeat it, lost the battle.  It then decided that it change its policy and not place foster children with same-sex couples as it had done for years.  Cardinal Sean O'Malley (right) even used the term "do violence to them," to describe what happened to children in these situations.

Catholic Charities worked through the Department of Social Services in Massachusetts.  The state of Massachusetts cannot legally discriminate, so Catholic Charities was not allowed to change its stance on same-sex foster parents that it had embraced for many years.  As a result, many members of the Board of Catholic Charities resigned, not in protest over same-sex marriage but over the church's decision to change its adoption policy.  These board members are lay leaders in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, including the Chair of the Committee, Peter Meade (left), who wrote an op-ed in a Boston newspaper explaining his decision as well as his support for same-sex marriage.

So Catholic Charities did not lose its license to place children in foster homes any more than it will lose permission to feed the poor in Washington if it follows though on its threat to withdraw its social service support in DC if the city allows same-sex marriage.

In the midst of heated debate, sometimes people misspeak without knowing it.  Other times, however, the "inaccuracy" is not a slip of the tongue at all. Statements are calculated to instill fear, in this case fear that religious institutions will be required to marry gay people or lose their tax exempt status.  This is simply false.

Thanks, of course, to Timothy Kincaid at Turtle Box Bulletin, for his report on the hearings.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. FYI, under Cardinal O'Malley, Catholic Charities of Boston requested an exemption from the state's anti-discrimination law. That request (to be allowed to discriminate against LGBT families seeking to adopt a child out of foster care) was denied. Catholic Charities then voluntarily chose to abandon its adoption practice. All those services (and staff) were transferred to a private agency that also had a contract with the state. Catholic Charities had been placing children for adoption in LGBT households when that placement was in the child's best interest. All children deserve a safe, nurturing permanent family; when the birth family cannot or will not provide that, adoption can.

    These children are wards of the state; they are OUR children. We OWE them every opportunity to grow up with love and stability. The priority MUST be the best interest of the child. And, thankfully, the care and wisdom of many LGBT couples in Massachusetts IS in the best interest of many children waiting for adoption.
    Janice Halpern
    Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange-MARE

  3. Thanks so much for this response. You are absolutely right on all counts. And thanks for emphasizing again that the church voluntarily chose to abandon its adoption practice. That is exactly my point. Again, thanks for writing.