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In break from Romney, Healey raps gay adoption exclusion

Candidate says agencies cannot discriminate

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, in a break from the governor, said yesterday she would not support a measure allowing the state's Catholic bishops to exclude gays and lesbians from adopting children from Catholic agencies.

Healey, a candidate for governor in November, said that if Catholic Charities, the church's social service arm, wishes to serve as a licensed adoption provider in Massachusetts, it cannot discriminate against gays.

''I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state," Healey said yesterday. ''And our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important."

Healey's remarks contrast sharply with the views expressed by Governor Mitt Romney, who met Wednesday with Catholic leaders.

Romney expressed sympathy with the bishops' view that the state requirement that gays be allowed to adopt conflicts with Catholic religious principles. Romney said that although he cannot exempt Catholic Charities from antidiscrimination laws by executive order, he wants the agency to be able to continue placing children for adoption in a way that does not violate Catholic religious doctrine. He said that ''legislation may need to be filed" to achieve that end.

Yesterday, the governor's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, expanded on the governor's earlier remarks and said ''important issues of religious liberty [are] at stake here."

''We think special legislation is called for, and we're willing to work with the church to help them carry out their charitable mission," Fehrnstrom said in an e-mail message.

Healey said she is not making the comments to distance herself from Romney, but added: ''We're different people." She has also broken with Romney in expressing her support for abortion rights, underscoring the more moderate platform she will run on.

The question of gay adoptions at Catholic Charities has erupted into a contentious public issue.

The lay board of Catholic Charities of Boston voted unanimously in December to continue allowing gays to adopt, but the state's four bishops announced earlier this week that they were launching an effort to halt the gay adoptions. The Vatican has said that gay adoptions are ''gravely immoral."

On Wednesday, seven board members of Catholic Charities announced they were resigning from the board because they cannot support the bishops' position. Yesterday, an additional member resigned, said spokeswoman Virginia Reynolds. She declined to name the member.

Catholic Charities has yet to decide whether it will replace the eight members, Reynolds said. The board had 42 members prior to the resignations, but there is no fixed number required, she said.

The board members serve three-year terms, and while they are appointed by vote of existing members, they serve at the pleasure of the archdiocese, several board members said.

One of the members who quit, Donna Gittens, chief executive officer of Causemedia, an advertising agency, said she has received support for her decision.

''People have been very supportive, and we believe we've made the right decision," she said.

State House News contributed to this report. Patricia Wen can be reached at wen@globe.com.

 GOP rallies behind Healey (By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff, 3/3/06)
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