Salvation Army ends contracts with San Francisco
By Chris Herlinger, Ecumenical News International, July 17, 1998
New York, 15 July (ENI)–While the Salvation Army in many parts of the world is modernizing its image, it has reaffirmed its bedrock theology in perhaps the most politically and socially liberal city in the United States.
Last month the Salvation Army announced it was terminating its social service contracts with the municipal authorities in the city of San Francisco because the Salvation Army’s belief in the primacy of the traditional family was at odds with the city’s 12-month-old domestic partnership law.
The legislation requires the city and those agencies which have contracts with the city to extend health and retirement benefits to the domestic partners of gay, lesbian and unmarried employees. San Francisco has a big homosexual community with significant influence on local politics.
Decision “difficult” but “proper”
The Salvation Army’s decision has cost it $3.5 million in municipal contracts, resulting in the layoffs of about 60 of its 400 employees in the city, and forcing cutbacks in food assistance, shelter and drug-rehabilitation programs which formerly operated in cooperation with the city authorities. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love, who heads the Salvation Army’s San Francisco operation, told ENI that his organization felt it had no other choice. “This conflicts with our basic theological position which recognizes the importance of the family,” Love said. “We must also speak with a national voice. We couldn’t do anything in San Francisco that we couldn’t do nationally.” While the city and the Salvation Army had negotiated for 11 months over the issue, Love said no further negotiation was likely or possible. He described the decision as “difficult”, but ultimately “proper.”
“This has been difficult to explain because it is perceived as discrimination against homosexuals,” he said. “It is not. We don’t discriminate in service to anyone. The delivery of service is not the issue.”
Other charities and religious organizations have successfully negotiated with the city while not explicitly supporting the domestic partnership law. Catholic Charities, for example, has opted to provide benefits to any designated person, such as an employee’s housemate, sibling or other family member.