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DC Catholic diocese says same-sex marriage law may force end to social services program

[JURIST] The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington DC [organization website] pledged Tuesday to end its involvement in social services if a same-sex marriage bill [text, PDF] is approved by the city council. The religious organization claims that the bill interferes with its members' religious freedom by forcing them to choose between violating the law or abandoning their beliefs. Although the bill exempts religious organizations from having to equally "provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage," the archdiocese argues that their freedom is restricted by being forced to recognize the unions by equally providing employee benefits and services to same-sex couples. CEO of DC Catholic Charities Edward Orzechowski expressed his concern [press release] that the narrow exemption language "will cause the government to discontinue our long partnership with them" and require the organization to defend their beliefs "rather than serve the poor." The current version of the bill was approved Tuesday by the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary [official website].

In July, the DC city council approved a measure [JURIST report] to recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] performed elsewhere. Church leaders and others opposing the bill sought a referendum against it but were denied on the grounds that the action violated DC's Human Rights Act [materials]. Councilman Marion Barry [official website] was the only member to oppose the measure. Earlier this month, Maine failed to become the sixth US state to allow same-sex marriages when voters vetoed [JURIST report] the state's provision.

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