El Paso bishop reassigns anti-gay Priest Michael Rodriguez for illegally intervening in politics

The Catholic bishop in El Paso has reassigned a priest who recently took out a series of anti-gay ads (right) in the city’s daily newspaper. Father Michael Rodriguez of  San Juan Bautista Parish has been transferred to another church in West Texas. In addition to taking out the ads in The El Paso Times — which were paid for by an unidentified Plano couple — Rodriguez recently challenged three city officials to a public debate over their decision to vote in favor of domestic partner benefits for employees. The three officials are currently the target of recall election petitions sponsored by an anti-gay group.

ABC Channel 7 reports that El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa reassigned Rodriguez because his involvement in the DP benefits issue “raised serious issues regarding whether his participation could be attributed to the Diocese of El Paso.”

“(Father) Rodriguez has recently challenged certain city officials to participate with him in a partisan debate on issues related to an upcoming election,” said Ochoa. “This type of intervention in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.”

On a related note, we mentioned last week that GLAAD has been working with The EL Paso Times to improve the newspaper’s handling of LGBT issues. Despite GLAAD’s efforts, it’s kind of sad that the newspaper can’t seem to bring itself to use the word “gay.” Check out the lede on today’s story: “The Rev. Michael Rodriguez, of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, who has been in the spotlight for his anti-homosexuality beliefs, has been reassigned to another church, he said Wednesday.” Anti-homosexuality? Sounds like “love the sinner, hate the sin” — and a sad excuse for journalism.

—  John Wright

El Paso County votes down DP benefits

Unlike in Dallas County, commissioners were given a firm projected cost and actually took a vote. The El Paso Times reports:

County Judge Veronica Escobar brought up the issue of domestic partner benefits during a budget meeting on Tuesday.

After a discussion, Commissioners Dan Haggerty, Willie Gandara Jr. and Sergio Lewis voted against the measure, choosing not to look at providing health insurance benefits to unmarried couples of any gender. Escobar and commissioner Anna Perez supported the idea.

Escobar said it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to have as many people as possible covered with health insurance in the county. “The more people in our community who are uninsured, the more that it cost taxpayers to fund them,” she said.

Escobar said people with health insurance are more prone to receive preventive health care services than are uninsured people, who can’t afford to see a doctor and tend to use the emergency room at the University Medical Center. Taxpayers pay for services provided at the UMC emergency room, she said.

Analysts estimate it would cost the county almost $23,000 more a year to provide health insurance benefits to the partners of unmarried county workers.

—  John Wright