With a Democratic majority now in both chambers of Colorado’s legislature, civil unions legislation is expected to pass quite easily this year. That won’t stop Catholic Charities from attempting to thwart the effort with its perennial threat to abandon all adoption services if not granted specific protections to continue discriminating against same-sex couples. Mark Rohlena, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, explains that a complete shutdown is “very well what could happen”:
ROHLENA: We feel it would be a very sad commentary if Colorado forced religious institutions or those who believe in a different framework to do something against their conscience… We probably would cease the operation of our adoption programs. That risk is always there. I think that we would try to explore every avenue available to us to provide this vital service to the community.
Catholic Charities can easily avoid the conflict by functioning privately without dependency on state funding. Catholic Charities in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC preferred to honor their ultimatums and voluntarily shut down when the respective governments refused to continue the organization’s funding if it discriminated. Rohlena claimed that his agency does not receive state funds to “any significant degree,” so this shouldn’t be a concern.
But Catholic Charities demonstrated quite brashly during the debate last year in Colorado that it cares more about opposing recognition of same-sex couples than it does the service it provides. Last year’s version of the civil unions bill included a specific provision that the law could “not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption with parties to a civil union.” Despite this exemption, Catholic Charities nonetheless testified it would shut down anyway.
If any lawmaker might be swayed by Catholic Charities, that testimony should be sufficient evidence that the threat is a bluff. Just as an Illinois bishop recently admitted that religious exemptions will not assuage the Catholic Church’s opposition to marriage equality, Catholic Charities of Colorado is going to protest civil unions even if lawmakers meet all of their demands.