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Romney wants
antigay exemptions for Catholic Church

Romney wants
antigay exemptions for Catholic Church

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said on Monday he's trying to find a way to exempt Roman Catholic social services agencies from a law requiring them to consider gays as adoptive parents. Romney said he doesn't have the power to unilaterally exempt Catholic Charities from the state's antidiscrimination laws. But he said he wants to let Catholic agencies continue placing children with adoptive parents without violating the teachings of their faith.

"The church through its Catholic Charities provides an extraordinary service to the commonwealth by placing many special needs children every year in homes," Romney told reporters. "That's a service I hope we will continue to be able to avail ourselves of." Romney did not elaborate on what options he is exploring. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, broke with Romney last week, saying she's opposed to exempting the church from the antidiscrimination laws.

In the past two decades, 13 of the 720 children placed with adoptive families by Catholic Charities have been placed in gay households. The state's four Catholic bishops have said the state law threatens the church's religious freedom by forcing it to do something it considers immoral.

Seven members of the Catholic Charities board stepped down last Wednesday in protest of the bishops' stance. An eighth board member resigned on Thursday. The 42-member board had voted unanimously in December to continue considering gay households for adoptions.

Romney met in his office Wednesday with church leaders, including Boston archbishop Sean O'Malley, and said religious institutions should be able to help people without violating their faith. "Ultimately, legislation may need to be filed to provide an exemption based on religious principles," Romney said in a statement released after the meeting.

Any legislation seeking to grant the Catholic Church an exemption could face a tough time on Beacon Hill. House speaker Salvatore DiMasi said he supports the state's antidiscrimination law, including the part allowing gay parents to adopt. "The state's top priority should be placing children in loving and caring homes, regardless of adoptive parents' race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation," DiMasi said last week. "Denying same-sex couples the right to be considered is discriminatory and runs counter to the principle that all citizens are created equal under the law."

Arline Isaacson, cochair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said she is baffled why the issue is coming up now. "We fought this battle from 1985 to 1991, and the courts settled the question in the early 1990s," she said. "If the Catholic Church had a problem with gay adoptions, the question was resolved over a decade ago. It makes no sense that they are raising it now."

Geri Denterlein, one of the Catholic Charities board members who resigned, said she had no inside knowledge why the bishops asked for the exemption now. "I think it's something related to Rome and how the Vatican is thinking about the United States and gay marriage," she said. (AP)

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