Salvation Army would close soup kitchens over gay benefits

The Salvation Army says it will close soup kitchens for New York’s homeless if firms doing business with the city are required to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of their gay and lesbian staffers.

A spokesman for the organization said the Salvation Army would rather walk away from $70 million a year in city contracts and abandon the clients it serves, including foster kids and people with HIV, rather than betray its fundamentalist Christian faith by providing the healthcare benefits.

Earlier this month, New York City council approved a measure mandating that city contractors offer domestic partner benefits for their gay and lesbian workers. Although New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the law, the council is likely to override his veto.

The Salvation Army serves about five million people annually in New York. The group has multiyear contracts with the city totaling $250 million.

In March, Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., dropped spousal benefits for all newlyweds and new hires in order to evade compliance with that city’s same-sex marriage law.