To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2278
Date: March 18, 2009

The Catholic Church affirms the God-given dignity of every human life and rejects unjust discrimination. Acts of violence, degradation, or diminishment toward any human person, including anyone with a homosexual inclination, are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

There is no place for arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against a person because of sexual attraction. We especially deplore violence and harassment directed against such persons. Moreover, all human persons, including those with homosexual inclinations, have a right to obtain employment and housing.

We recognize that some people have a same sex attraction. This tendency is not in itself immoral or sinful. However, like all sexual activity outside of marriage, homosexual activity, as distinguished from homosexual tendency, is morally wrong. A corollary of this teaching of the Church is that patterns of life, sometimes referred to as “lifestyles,” that encourage or normalize immoral behavior are also morally objectionable. This is particularly true of those patterns that encourage, promote, or advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.

Based on these principles, we cannot support SB 2278. The unique legal status granted by the bill’s definition of sexual orientation appears to encompass not only homosexual inclinations, but also other sexual activities, homosexual or heterosexual, outside of marriage. Civil rights categories should not be used to cover a particular group’s activities, especially when those activities are morally objectionable. Current law already protects lawful activities outside the place of employment. This bill, however, would create special protection for a certain class of activities.

This raises serious policy questions when we consider that current law does not provide protection to other activities and thoughts. Some people might experience discrimination because of their familial status, where they live, their appearance, their weight, or their health. (The statute’s definition of mental and physical disability is limited to substantial impairments.) Some people might experience discrimination because of their non-religious beliefs or their residency status. None of these activities or conditions, however, are covered under our Human Rights Act.

In addition, while we appreciate the Senate’s attempts to provide exemptions for religious organizations, further review of the bill and relevant case law leads us to conclude that the current exemptions fall short of that which is needed to protect the religious integrity of churches and avoid costly an unnecessary litigation.

Senate Bill 2278, therefore, is flawed in its scope and its reach. It would establish the dangerous precedent of creating legal protection for chosen sexual activities and public expressions of sexuality while providing inadequate legal protection for religious organizations. Rejection of Senate Bill 2278 should not be construed as an act of hostility towards persons with homosexual inclinations. There is not room for that here. Rather, it should be seen as a prudential act recognizing what is good law and good public policy.

We respectfully request a Do Not Pass recommendation on Senate Bill 2278.