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LGBT advocates fight Catholic Charities' threat to stop adoptions if civil unions are legalized

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Gay advocacy group One Colorado has started an online petition to fight against what it calls "scare tactics" by Catholic Charities, whose reps testified at the Capitol last week that if lawmakers legalize civil unions, it may stop providing adoption and foster care services. Why? Because civil unions could lead to same-sex marriage, which Catholics oppose.

That was the word from Colleen Haggerty, who spoke on behalf of Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Denver. "We hold the institution of marriage and the family a sacred pillar of our faith," she said, noting that Senate Bill 2, which would authorize any two unmarried adults -- regardless of gender -- to enter into a civil union, "undermines the privileged place of marriage."

The bill, she said, "may unnecessarily jeopardize services to the children in the most need of our help" -- kids requiring foster care and those up for adoption. "These are the very people who would be hurt," she added.

Bill sponsor Senator Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat, challenged Haggerty. "I don't understand how this bill would impact you and in fact, I'm wondering if you've read the bill," he said. "Because on page eighteen, it clearly states that, 'This bill is not to be interpreted to require child placement agencies to place a child for adoption with a couple that has entered into a civil union.' So I'm not understanding your objections."

"I have read the bill, and I have it right here," Haggerty said. "I believe I said that in other states that have this -- this is setting a precedent...where civil unions lead to the recognition of same-sex marriage. Innate in our faith and the cornerstone of what the Catholic church believes is the institution of marriage is one man and one woman, so to recognize this in any other way would go against what we believe."

"And for that you'd stop serving the vulnerable in our state?" Steadman asked.

"That's not what I said," Haggerty said.

Later, in response to a question, Steadman said, "The abandonment of a charitable mission because we have to be charitable to all is a rather disappointing position."

One Colorado agrees. In an e-mail to supporters titled "Shocking," director Brad Clark wrote, "You know what scares me the most? Catholic Charities is putting vulnerable children in the middle of this debate, and I don't want thousands of kids to become collateral damage in the crossfire. That's just not right.

"I hope you'll help us send a message to Catholic Charities. A message of appreciation for the important work they do -- and a request for that work to continue, even after all families are granted equal protection under the law."

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on February 15. Click here to watch Steadman's testimony. And watch video of Catholic Charities' testimony below.

More from our Politics archive: "Proposition 8 ruling: Could it make legislatures gun shy about civil unions?"

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