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Church, S.F. Make Deal On Benefits Law Compromise Alters Language Of Domestic-Partners Ordinance

Associated Press

San Francisco’s Roman Catholic archdiocese has struck a compromise with the city that brings the church into compliance with a domestic-partners benefits law without violating religious teachings.

The deal Thursday involves tinkering with language of the 2-month-old ordinance, which requires organizations doing business with the city to provide registered domestic partners of employees with the same benefits that workers’ spouses receive.

The changes, which can be adopted by any contractor, would allow the church to avoid officially sanctioning domestic-partner relations.

Specifically, the deal would let employees of Catholic groups - or any other organization doing business with the city - to designate someone in their household as eligible to receive “spousal-equivalent benefits.” That could include a spouse, sibling, other relative or unmarried partner.

The compromise was reached during a meeting attended by San Francisco Archbishop William Levada and several city officials, including Mayor Willie Brown.

The controversy arose because Catholic Charities and Catholic Health Care West, both associated with the archdiocese, hold contracts with the city.

Levada threatened to sue, saying the law violated the church’s First Amendment rights by dictating requirements that violate church doctrine. The archdiocese has been a strong opponent of sanctioning domestic-partner relations, homosexual and heterosexual.

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