DENVER — Those who testified against a Colorado civil-unions bill last week included a Catholic man with same-sex attraction and a Colorado attorney general who was adopted through Catholic Charities.
State Attorney General John Suthers told the Colorado House Judiciary Committee Feb. 28 that if the bill passes in its current form, “Catholic Charities and some other religiously affiliated social-service agencies will no longer be in the adoption business in Colorado.”
Suthers, a Catholic and a Republican who testified against the bill in his capacity as a private citizen, was adopted through Catholic Charities as an infant.
The bill, S.B. 11, would create civil unions for two people of any sex that would be legally equivalent to marriage under state law. Unlike previous versions of the bill, the present version has dropped a religious-freedom provision ensuring that child-placement agencies were not required to place children with same-sex or unmarried couples.
The legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-3. It now heads to the House Finance Committee before a final vote on the House floor.
Catholic Charities of Denver said it was grateful for Suthers’ testimony and called for a religious-freedom exemption so that the bill “does not threaten the vital work of many child-placement agencies in Colorado.”
“Religious liberty is a civil-rights issue,” the agency said.
Catholic News Agency columnist Patrick Einheber, who writes on living as a chaste Catholic with same-sex attraction, read to the House committee his Jan. 28 column, “Same-sex Attraction and the Specter of Inequality.”
“I felt it was important to testify about the major thing that separates marriage from same-sex relationships: the ability to create new members of society through a committed sexual relationship,” Einheber said.
He said he generally felt civil-unions proponents’ testimony was “mostly an emotional appeal and centered on what they wanted from society.”
“It ignored the fullness of what marriage provides back to society,” he said, explaining that the debate should focus on “why the government cares about marriage to begin with.”
Einheber said there is an “essential difference between equality of persons and the attempt to legislate equality of behaviors.”
Mark Rohlena, president of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, called for a “broad conscience protection” in his testimony before the committee.
“Sadly, in places like Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., we have seen Catholic Charities' organizations forced out of their adoption and foster-care programs, where they are trusted partners with the state, when conscience objections are not protected,” he said.
State Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Littleton, Colo., proposed to amend the bill to provide protections to religious child-placement agencies. However, three other Republicans on the committee were not in the room, and no other legislator seconded the proposal, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
Some religious individuals have backed the bill, including Rev. Mike Morran of the First Unitarian Society of Denver, who said the proposed law allows religious institutions to refuse ceremonies or access to facilities for same-sex couples, but it has no concessions for child-placement agencies.
“They can discriminate, or they can accept public money, but they can’t do both,” he said, according to the Gazette.
However, the law applies to all institutions regardless of whether they take public money. In January, Rohlena told EWTN News that Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does not receive state funds in “any significant degree.”
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, a separate Colorado agency, has provided adoption and foster-care services since 1927. It also does not accept state funding for adoption services, but it can contract with county governments to place children with the agency’s certified foster families.