In a move being characterized as a major milestone, the Michigan Catholic Conference this week announced that it will change healthcare coverage for Catholic employees in the state to allow coverage of workers’ same-sex spouses and partners.
The new policy was designed to comply with federal non-discrimination standards without explicitly recognizing marriages of same-sex couples.
“We believe, with this modification of our health benefit plan, that it is legally sound and consistent with Catholic teaching,” Dave Maluchnik, Director of Communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference, told Reuters.
Coverage will now be extended to “legally domiciled adults” over age 18 who have lived with the employee for more than six months. The Detroit Free Press reported that in a letter announcing the change, the Catholic Conference did not mention the issue of same-sex relationships, but simply stated that the benefits will apply to everyone who meets the domicile requirement.
"This is a good step forward," said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry. The policy jettisons the old practice of completely denying health coverage to same-sex spouses because the Catholic Church’s defines a spouse as someone of the “opposite” gender.
"We hope other Catholic dioceses will see the light and act justly in accordance to the law in this Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, so that all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are covered by health care,” said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, Director of HRC’s Latino and Catholic Initiatives.
For those LGBT and allied American Catholics who hope to lead their faith communities toward a more welcoming stance and for those seeking a path back to their beloved tradition, HRC Foundation’s “Coming Home to Catholicism and to Self” provides general, overarching insights and suggestions to spark new ideas, new dialogue and new courage.
To learn more about the Catholic Church’s stance on LGBT Issues, visit HRC Foundation’s Faith Positions.