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City Union Mission director defends policy to separate same-sex couples staying in shelter

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The City Union Mission said Monday it will not allow same-sex couples to stay together in its family homeless shelter – a policy that’s catching some heat and praise for the Kansas City ministry.

“Our policy is simply, if we have space, we allow same-sex couples to stay with us,” said Dan Doty, executive director of City Union Mission, “but not in a separate room, a private room.”

Instead, gay couples, even if they’re legally married, would be separated, or put in a bigger dorm room with other single men or women.

It's a policy Doty said is rooted in religion.

"We believe it to be God’s word, infallible” he said. “We want to err on the side of obeying God rather than the laws that man might make that are in opposition.”

Doty said the privately-funded Christian ministry has always served the gay community and will continue to do so; but has received countless phone calls since the policy became public.

“We’ve gotten a lot of negative things and people dropping their support,” he said, “but we’ve also had a lot of encouraging things.”

One critic is KC LEGAL, a metro nonprofit representing the LGBT community, which gave FOX 4 this statement:

"We understand that City Union Mission is unwilling to allow same-sex families to stay together when receiving services provided in its family-style units, and that it is basing that decision on its values as a Christian organization. That decision makes all of us at Kansas City Lesbian, Gay & Allied Lawyers very sad. Recent statistics indicate that of the homeless youth in the United States, approximately 40% of them identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). Thus, a good percentage of the people most in need of City Union Mission’s services are LGBT. Further, part of serving other people is serving them and their families regardless of our approval of them. If the people who need help are same-sex couples who happen to be married and homeless, they are each other’s family, period. While requiring these families to spend the night separately may seem like a minor matter, that is scary, traumatic, dehumanizing, and degrading. The message is simply one of judgment and disapproval. That is especially sad given that the population they are serving is already, in large part, a disenfranchised and powerless one."

But Doty is steadfast in his beliefs and hopes the focus quickly returns to their mission.

“We love all people,” he said. “We served last night over 500 people in our shelters, and we’ve done this for 90 years, so we’re going to continue to care for people and love people.”

Doty said the shelter has never actually had a same-sex couple ask to stay together. However, if a couple insisted they stay in the same room, the City Union Mission would recommend other organizations that allow it such as the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities.

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