WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (AP)--Washington's mayor won't sign a bill that angered Congress and Roman Catholic leaders by requiring employer-provided health plans in the capital to pay for contraceptives.
Mayor Anthony Williams' refusal to sign, announced Tuesday, effectively kills the bill. The District of Columbia Council, which passed it unanimously, adjourned Monday until September.
The mayor said he would not approve any contraceptives bill that lacks an opt-out clause for church or other employers opposed to birth control on religious or moral grounds.
"We thank Mayor Williams for not signing this flawed legislation," said Bishop William E. Lori, auxiliary bishop of Washington. Enactment, he said, "would have been an infringement on religious liberty."
Members of Congress felt much the same way, saying the council should have been more sensitive to the needs of the church.
The House Appropriations Committee added language to the District of Columbia budget that would bar enforcement of the bill without a conscience clause. The House postponed a vote on the budget until its return from summer recess.
Williams said he hopes his refusal to sign the bill will "foster the kind of dialogue and compromise needed by all the parties so we can get the bill out there this fall."
The measure, which the council passed 13-0 last month, would have required all district employers with health plans to pay for contraceptive services. Attempts to include an opt-out "conscience clause" failed, prompting outrage from the Catholic Church and other groups.
Council members intend this fall to try to work out a narrow exemption that satisfies certain groups, Councilman Jim Graham said.