States should not reward bigotry

Hackettstown, N.J. – In a Catholic Health Initiatives graphic, the phrase “Extraordinary Family Centered Care” sits in the center of a red cross with the words “Excellence, Compassion, Reverence and Integrity” in a circle around this cross. This is the care model for the state-supported Catholic hospital group, except if your family includes same-sex couples.

CHI, based out of Denver, Colo., employs approximately 83,000 people and has an annual revenue of approximately $15 billion, but it cannot seem to bring itself to offer health care insurance to spouses of its LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) staff members.

Catholic Health Initiatives is a national hospital chain that operates in 20 states and includes 78 hospitals, 40 long-term care, assisted and residential living facilities, two community health-services organizations, two accredited nursing colleges, and home health agencies.

In its statements, the hospital chain says it follows the ethical and religious directives of the Roman Catholic Church, authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, especially with regard to family and life. In other words, they will not allow abortions or sterilizations to be done in Catholic hospitals; they will keep individuals alive through artificial means if necessary, they will only consider valid a marriage between one man and one woman.

However, what is most disturbing is the duplicitous nature in which CHI operates. It seems the religious and ethical principles can be disregarded as it suits them. For example, one of CHI’s hospitals, St.Thomas More in Cañon City, CO, in a malpractice suit attempted to argue that a fetus was not a person. CHI argued that (Colorado) state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that life begins at conception. If they believe that life begins at conception then how can CHI argue that a fetus is not a person in court?

The mission statement of CHI reads, in part, “to emphasize human dignity and social justice as we move toward the creation of healthier communities.” How are they living up to their call of “social justice” by practicing discrimination in their benefits policies?

When an employee contacts CHI’s benefits department they are informed: “Catholic Health Initiatives, in accordance with Roman Catholic teachings, only acknowledges as valid a marriage between one man and one woman.” CHI hospitals receive grants from states in which they operate. In New Jersey, Saint Clare’s Health System receives a grant from the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addictions. It receives this grant for Behavioral Health and for Self Help Services. 

CHI continually stresses the word Integrity.  Integrity means truthfulness and doing what is right or correct.  With that in mind, CHI need not acknowledge the “validity” of same-sex marriages yet they can still offer health benefits to spouses in accordance with the laws, especially when they are recipients of state funds. CHI should do it because it is the right thing to do. The fact that CHI does not offer benefits to spouses in a disgrace and it is petty.

Should organizations that receive public money, taxpayer’s money, be allowed to discriminate, especially in states where a civil union is supposed to be on a par with marriage. It clearly is not the same nor is it on a par with marriage. This is why marriage equality has to be achieved in the State of New Jersey and across the country.

Photo: via Kelley Reale