Catholic Church in Michigan may expand health care to gay couples

Catholic Church in Michigan may expand health care to gay couples

[Michigan Catholic Conference capitulates to the culture of perversion; other dioceses may follow suit, because AmChurch’s National Catholic Bioethics Center has “blessed” the arrangement]

Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press
March 4, 2016
www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/03/04/catholic-church-michigan-may-expand-health-care-gay-couples/81336744/

In a move praised by LGBT advocates, the Catholic Church in Michigan is making changes to its health care plan that could allow gays to get health care for their partners or spouses.

In a letter sent this week to pastors and employees of the Catholic Church in Michigan, the Michigan Catholic Conference said it is modifying its health care coverage to include legally domiciled adults (LDA), meaning those who are above 18, have lived with the employee for at least six months and are financially interdependent with the employee.

As long as the person meets those criteria, they will get health care coverage, regardless of their sexual orientation or activity, said a Michigan Catholic Conference official.

The move is being made to comply with changes in federal law, which now allows for same-sex marriage, and also to keep in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which opposes same-gender sexual acts and same-gender marriage. The Michigan Catholic Conference, based in Lansing, oversees the health care for Catholic employees in the state. A gay couple would not qualify under the current health insurance’s spousal coverage since the Catholic Church only defines a spouse as someone of the opposite gender.

The letter to employees from the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) reads: “Due to recent changes in federal law regarding the provision of health benefits, Michigan Catholic Conference has adopted a modification to MCC benefits to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The inclusion of the LDA (Legally Domiciled Adults) benefit allows for the MCC health plan to be both legally compliant and consistent with Church teaching.”

The letters don’t mention gays or the issue of same-sex relationships, but state that the benefits will apply to anyone who meets the requirement of a legally domiciled adult. The changes effectively mean that someone who is in a sexual relationship with or married to someone of the same gender could get health benefits from the Church. It also would apply to a friend, cousin, sibling or parent who lives with the employee.

The Michigan Catholic Conference indicated that it will not investigate the sexual activities or behaviors of those applying for the new LDA coverage to find out whether someone is in a same-sex relationship.

“The Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality is not changing,” said Dave Maluchnik, director of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC). “The only reason MCC is making this eligibility modification to its health benefit policy is to be consistent with Catholic teaching on marriage — one man and one woman. Going forward, relationship will not be an evaluative criterion for including another individual (LDA) as a recipient of MCC’s health benefit. And none of this changes Catholic teaching; it complies with federal law, as it is, in 2016. This is the world in which we now live.”

The only other options for the MCC to keep in line with the law as well as Catholic teachings would be to remove all health care coverage or remove spousal coverage, both of which would hurt employees, and so weren’t seen as viable.

The LDA option came about because the legalization of same-sex marriage last year put the views of the federal government in conflict with the Catholic Church.

“As such, sections of the IRS Tax Code, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and EEOC regulations all now have an impact upon the provision of health benefits,” Maluchnik said.

Currently, the health insurance plans for Catholic employees include coverage for spouses and children of marriages between one man and one woman, in accordance with Catholic teachings. By including the LDA coverage, the Catholic Church can keep in compliance with federal law, while not explicitly advocating same-sex relations.

For example, a gay employee of the Catholic Church in Michigan who is married to another man might be able to get health care coverage now under the LDA benefit. He would not be eligible to get it under the spousal benefit.

LGBT Catholic advocates praised the move by Catholic leaders in Michigan.

“This is a good step forward,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a group in Maryland near Washington, D.C., which promotes equality and justice for LGBT people in the Catholic Church and society.

However, DeBernardo said the changes stop short of what their group is hoping for, the acceptance of same-sex relations and marriage, which the Church opposes.

“It’s not ideal,” DeBernardo said. “I wish the Catholic Church would recognize they could do this by explicitly supporting same-sex couples.”

The changes by the Catholic Church in Michigan comes as Catholic universities and hospitals also adjust their health care policies. In some cases, there are reports of gay Catholic employees being denied benefits or removed from their positions.

DeBernardo said the move by the Michigan Catholic Conference echoes what happened in 1997 in the Archdiocese in San Francisco, which has a sizable LGBT community. The Archdiocese agreed to add the LDA benefit as a compromise after the city threatened to stop its contracts with them for social services over not including gay partners in their employee health care coverage.

Other dioceses across the U.S. are now considering similar changes, said Maluchnik.

The new LDA benefit might potentially upset some conservatives, but the letter to the pastors says : “The decision was made following an extensive analysis conducted by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and in consultation with attorneys responsible for the legality of the MCC health plan.”

Based in Philadelphia, the bioethics center’s board includes Catholic bishops and is currently chaired by the Archbishop of New Orleans.

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