03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Out of the Closet, Out in the Cold: Gay Marriage and the Catholic Archdiocese in DC

Documentary-short by Hunter Stuart

Article by Eric Sheptock, Advocate for the Homeless, Washington DC

Washington, DC has joined several other states in its quest for same-sex marriage. The DC Council voted 11 to 2 in favor of same-sex marriage on December 1st. According to DC Law, they must vote a second time on December 15th and then the bill goes to Capitol Hill for Congressional review. Congress then has 30 days to vote on it, or it becomes law by default.

When news of the impending vote came out in early November, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC threatened to end all social service contracts that Catholic Charities has with the city if the same-sex marriage bill becomes law. They don't want to pay spousal benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees. Neither do they want to allow gay or lesbian couples to adopt children through their adoption services. All in all, the Catholic church doesn't want to honor same-sex marriage rights in any way, shape, form or fashion. As a church, they are entitled to their opinion and their stance on same-sex marriage.

However, Catholic Charities is not just the social service branch of the Catholic church. It is also a non-profit which receives funding from the DC Government. Churches don't have to perform same-sex marriages or allow them to be performed in their space. But businesses may not discriminate against the LGBT community. Therefore, the crux of the issue is whether Catholic Charities should be allowed to assert its position as a branch of the Catholic Church and get a special exemption that doesn't require them to honor same-sex marriage rights or if they should be treated as a business and not be allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians, pedophile priests notwithstanding.

The Catholic Church is fighting an inward battle with two of its own tenets being pitted against each other -- caring for the needy vs. being against same-sex marriage. If they remain under contract with the city to deliver social services, they'll have to recognize and honor gay marriage. If they end their social service contracts with the city, then many of Catholic Charities' programs wouldn't have enough funding to remain operational. In essence, they would be letting down the 68,000 poor Washingtonians that they serve, of which 2,000 are homeless people seeking shelter. The loss of 2,000 shelter beds during hypothermia could be catastrophic for DC's 6,000 plus homeless people. That said, which is the lesser of two evils: accommodating a few gays and lesbians while providing for 68,000 needy people or leaving all of those needy people high and dry for the sake of making a statement against gay marriage? The fact of the matter is that, short of making a heretofore unmentioned compromise, the church would need to forgo one of its tenets in order to support the other. We'll know by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010 which way they went. Let's hope that they make the right choice.

My fellow homeless advocates and I will continue to raise awareness on the issue in hopes of instilling some sympathy in the hearts of the affluent for those who are less fortunate. Let's keep on keepin' on!!!

Eric Sheptock began advocating for the homeless in June 2006 when he and about 10 other men formed the Committee to Save Franklin Shelter (CSFS) and began to rally, protest and meet with DC Government officials so as to stop the closure. Since then, Mayor Fenty has taken office and closed Franklin, and the original CSFS has disbanded; Eric has joined forces with other homeless advocates and continues to fight for better shelter conditions and more affordable housing for the poor and homeless of DC. He has 2 blogs, writes for 2 papers and has been featured on CNN, WPFW Radio, NPR Radio and Russian television. Eric hopes to change DC Government's paradigm for how they deal with homelessness and won't stop advocating until the last person is housed because "HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT".

Originally published on

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?