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Essays for Solo Singles

Letters from AASP

Letters to AASP

An Interview with
Thomas F. Coleman

Comments
About Our Work

 

Letters sent by the
Executive Director
2000 - 2001

 


May 8, 2001

AASP is not an "anti family" lobby group

Star Tribune
Editorial Department
Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

One paragraph in the front-page article by Kevin Diaz on May 4 -- "Singles Push for Tax Rights" -- has caused some confusion and deserves clarification.

In the sixth paragraph of the article, Mr. Diaz wrote, "'All we hear about is families, families, families,' said Stephanie Knapik, spokeswoman for the American Association of Single People (AASP), a newly formed lobby for singles. 'And we're just ready to gag.'"

There are two problems with this paragraph.

First, the American Association for Single People is not a "lobby" but is a nonprofit and nonpartisan educational organization. As such, we are not allowed to lobby for specific legislation. Rather, we bring the attention of the public and of lawmakers to areas of unfairness. Informed individuals may then lobby for their desired result. Since we are a very diverse constituency, not all single people may want the exact same result.

Second, I would like to assure your readers that AASP is not "anti-family." We all come from families and many of us are single parents. However, we are fed up with politicians constantly pushing a "family" agenda but never once mentioning or including single people in the debates over reforms in the income tax, death tax, and social security tax.

We would like to see more balance in the political debates over tax reform, with unmarried taxpayers included in the conversation, especially considering that 40 percent of the workforce is unmarried. Families and unmarried taxpayers all deserve a tax break.

Mr. Diaz did a good job of capturing the essence of our mission and our trip to Washington D.C. on behalf of unmarried taxpayers. However, this one paragraph could lend itself to being misunderstood and so I felt it was necessary to make these clarifications.

Finally, we are pleased that dozens of readers who saw this story looked for our organization on the Internet and joined our cause. There is strength in numbers and our membership base keeps growing.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director
American Association for Single People


September 26, 2000

Minnesota Gov. Ventura has an opportunity to be inclusive

Governor Jesse Ventura
State Capitol
St. Paul, Minnesota
(651) 296-2089 [Governor's fax]
(651) 296-1990 [Commissioner's fax]

Re: Domestic partner benefits for state employees

Dear Governor Ventura:

I am the executive director of the American Association for Single People, the only national organization which makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority.

I am writing to offer information about the domestic partner benefits plan which you have asked Employee Relations Commissioner Julien Carter to draft.

I have been working in this field of law and economics for some 25 years, including teaching the first law school class on the subject anywhere in the nation (1985), testifying before legislative bodies (Hawaii, Vermont, California) and filing briefs in state Supreme Courts to defend such plans (Alaska, Georgia).

I am concerned that you might propose a law which would discriminate against unmarried heterosexual couples, many of whom have personal reasons for wanting to be domestic partners rather than marrying.

If your staff goes to our website, they will find a wealth of information about domestic partnership which may help you in formulating a fair and a legal plan.

Main domestic partner page: http://www.unmarriedamerica.com/dp_info.html

Essay: What's Wrong with Excluding Heterosexual Couples from Domestic Partnership:
http://www.unmarriedamerica.com/dp_wrong.html

Public policy in Minnesota is against marital status discrimination:
http://www.unmarriedamerica.com/ms_statutes.htm

It is illegal in Minnesota to discriminate on the basis of marital status, including in benefits compensation:
http://www.unmarriedamerica.com/ms_employment_laws.htm

Any proposal that would cover gay couples but which excludes heterosexual couples (on the theory that they can marry) would reinforce and perpetuate marital status discrimination.

About 80% of state and local governments with dp programs are gender neutral, that is, they include same and opposite sex couples. Domestic partner benefits programs for state employees are gender neutral in New York, Vermont, and Oregon. Most private employers have adopted gender-neutral plans.

The cost of an inclusive plan (gender-neutral) would be minimal. On a national average, enrollment only goes up by about one percent for plans that are open to same and opposite-sex couples.

Your leadership style has always been about the politics of inclusion. A gender-neutral approach to domestic partnership benefits would be consistent with your philosophy.

If I can be of any assistance to you or your staff on this issue, please let me know.

Respectfully,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director
American Association
for Single People

cc: Commissioner Julien Carter


September 10, 2000

AASP will help unmarried heterosexual airlines employees to seek equal benefits at work

Dear Concerned Employee:

I am responding to your letter to AASP about the exclusion of heterosexual domestic partners from your company's health benefits plan.

The airline industry in the United States is engaging in marital status discrimination. The airlines are telling their employees that, with respect to most benefits, if you can get married then you must get married in order to be eligible. They try to justify their sexist domestic partner benefits plans by saying that same-sex couples cannot marry. Well, neither can an employee and his widowed mother marry each other, but the airlines do not allow an employee to put his widowed mother on the domestic partner benefits plan. So much for that alleged justification.

The fact of the matter is that gay and lesbian employees have organized and worked to pressure the companies to give them, and only them, domestic partner benefits. It is a shame that the same-sex employees and their organizations did not demand a gender-neutral program.

In Canada, and in some other nations, many airlines (including U.S. based companies) give same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples these benefits. If they can do it in other nations, why not in the United States?

CWA is part of the problem. They negotiated a same-sex benefits program with AT&T and with Bell Atlantic.

When the Bell Atlantic program was challenged in court -- and I coached the attorneys for the plaintiff (who was a charter member of AASP) -- the federal district court ruled for the employer. Gays can't marry their partners, the judge said, and therefore they are not in the same class as unmarried heterosexual employees. But part of the problem with this logic is that most same-sex couples would not marry if that option were available to them. Most would probably be cohabitants (with a private agreement) or registered domestic partners. So the gay couples who would not marry get these benefits as dp's even though they would not marry even if they could.

Federal law does not prohibit marital status discrimination. Employee benefits programs involving health benefits are governed by federal law. Therefore, I do not believe that the solution to your problem will come through the courts until federal law is amended by Congress. That is a long way off.

The solution now is a political one. Affected employees should join AASP -- the only national organization that makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority. Employees should work with us and through us to pressure their companies and their unions to remove the sexist restriction from these benefits programs.

It is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled. Heterosexual employees with domestic
partners have not been speaking up.

So my suggestion is to participate in AASP.

Members may write to us with a request that we contact their employer (or union) on their behalf. We would ask their employer for a more equitable benefits plan, demonstrating that the cost will be minimal and the rewards great. We would highlight all of the major companies which have adopted inclusive plans. We would either use the employee(s) name(s) or do it anonymously if that is what the employee(s) ask(s).

I empathize with your situation and would like to help.

Please let your coworkers know that AASP exists and that we will do what we can to help our members get fair benefits at work.

I hope that you and your friends (and your domestic partners) will become members of AASP. Just fill our the application form on our website, make a tax-deductible donation of $10 or more per person, and you are members. Then we can work on a strategy to get the benefits plans revised.

Very truly yours,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


September 4, 2000

Letter to editor of Los Angeles Times re: unmarried workers

The commentary by Julianne Malveaux about unmarried workers getting the short end of the stick finally brought the issue of marital status discrimination to light. (But Who Watches Out for Singles? September 4, 2000 - Commentary)

Her commentary raised many valid questions, but probably because she was not aware of our group, it failed to answer the most important one: Who Watches Out for Singles? We do.

The American Association for Single People is the only national organization which makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority. We are a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization promoting the well being and equal rights of unmarried adults, couples, parents, and families. We are collective voice for unmarried workers, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.

To learn more about AASP and how to join us, people should write to us at P.O. Box 65756, Los Angeles, CA 90065. Those on the Internet can visit our website -- www.unmarriedAmerica.com.

We have a Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign which seeks to cure some of the problems mentioned by Ms. Malveaux.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


September 1, 2000

San Francisco Chronicle commentary should stir single taxpayers into action

Dear Editor,

In her article on the unfairness of the current income tax code, Maya MacGuineas proposes a simple but reasonable solution -- tax individuals, not couples.

By giving marriage couples who already have a bonus, even more of a bonus, the bill vetoed by President Clinton would have required single people to further subsidize the benefits of married people. That's the effect of reducing taxes on married people and not on unmarried people.

Another suggestion for reform would be to allow any two unmarried taxpayers who live together during the tax year to file a joint return, just as married couples now may do. An unmarried mother and her adult son might want to reap the benefit of a joint return, particularly if one of them makes considerably more than the other.

It's time for single people to speak out. Silence = tax!

If and when singles and unmarried couples are ready to take action, the American Association for Single People is there waiting for them. AASP is the only national organization that makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority.

Knowledge is power. Single people should visit our website at unmarriedAmerica.com to learn more about the issues which affect them and some of the solutions we are proposing.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


August 31, 2000

Fox News story on family values poll is unbalanced

Adrienne Mand
Fox News

Dear Ms. Mand,

I am responding to your story today about the Wirthlin National Marriage Poll sponsored by an interfaith group of religious leaders and organizations.

While this poll on marriage and family is interesting, what it does not tell us is how Americans feel about marital status discrimination in employment, housing, insurance, taxes, credit, etc. The questions were one sided, focusing only on the importance of marriage and family.

There are some 80 million unmarried adults in America. They made up 34% of the voters in the last national election. They work, pay taxes, and contribute to their "families" -- whether they live alone, with a domestic partner, or are single parents.

Americans believe in equal pay for equal work. They are against discrimination. They believe in fairness for all.

To balance this story, something should be said about the status of unmarried Americans. The public should be asked if they favor discrimination against their unmarried parents, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members.

Public policy should be balanced. Pushing everything with a pro-family agenda is not balanced. It sounds good to many voters, but that is because the pollsters did not bring to their attention the other side of the coin -- the ugly face of discrimination.

Your readers should be told about the only national organization that makes marital status discrimination its top priority -- the American Association for Single People. They should be referred to our website -- unmarriedAmerica.com -- for more information about this group of hard working tax paying Americans.

Your story on the Internet provided a link to the Alliance for Marriage. What not a link to unmarriedAmerica.com to give your referral system more balance?

This would be a good time to do a follow-up story about the larger picture. I can put you in touch with people to interview, including my colleagues at the Alternatives to Marriage Project.

I look forward to your reply. Please let me know if your editors see the importance of adding our group under the Fox Fast Links associated with this story.

Yours truly,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


August 8, 2000

Letter to Arizona Republic on domestic partner benefits

Dear Editor:

I would like to comment on the article by Jacqueline Simone Gayle (August 8) on domestic partner benefits.

About 40 percent of the nation's full-time work force is unmarried. If "equal pay for equal work" means anything at all, it must include equal benefits compensation for single and unmarried workers.

Domestic partner benefits are part of a national trend to make benefits compensation for fair to unmarried employees. However, because dp benefits are usually taxable to the employee (whereas benefits to married couples are not), the percent of unmarried couples who sign up for dp benefits is relatively small (about 1% to 2% of the workforce).

The cost to employers in minimal, but the goodwill created is tremendous.

The East Valley employers interviewed for this article are correct. The squeaky wheel gets oiled. Unmarried workers must speak up.

If they are afraid to do so themselves, or feel they don't have all of the facts, these workers can join the American Association for Single People and we will speak up for them (either anonymously or using their name if they wish). We have a Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign and are glad to contact employers or unions on behalf of our members.

AASP is the only national organization which makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority. We are a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization. Any unmarried adult can join by making a tax deductible donation of $10 or more.

For more information about AASP, readers should visit our website -- www.unmarriedAmerica.com -- which is the most authoritative source of information for and about single people on the Internet.

Maybe the next employment-related story Ms. Gayle writes should be about "solo singles" -- workers who live alone -- who are a class of people who truly get the short end of the stick in the workplace, especially when it comes to benefits compensation. AASP is fighting for their rights too.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


August 2, 2000

Singles get no tax break from either party

Editor
San Francisco Chronicle

Jane Bryant Quinn's column in today's Chronicle highlights the fact that both major political parties are courting married voters and ignoring unmarried Americans.

The truth is that single people pay higher taxes than married people -- and get fewer benefits in return -- not only when it comes to income tax, but also with respect to social security employment tax and federal death taxes.

This unfairness will not change until unmarried Americans, and especially unmarried voters, organize a political movement, just like women, seniors, gays, and other constituencies have done in the past.

For any single people who are upset and ready to support such a cause, the American Association for Single People is ready and waiting for them. AASP is a nonprofit organization which promotes the human rights and well being of unmarried adults, couples, parents, and families.

Readers may learn more about AASP by visiting our website -- www.unmarriedAmerica.com -- which is the most authoritative source of information for and about single people on the Internet. They can join AASP by making a tax-deductible donation of $10 or more.

United we stand, divided we pay more taxes.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director
Los Angeles, California


August 2, 2000

Single workers are being cheated

Editor
Salt Lake Tribune

Amy Gage hit the nail on the head with her August 2nd article describing the frustration felt by many workers who are single or without children.

Our own research has confirmed a growing level of resentment by single workers when employers give benefits, perks, and other advantages to employees who are married or who have children.

Unmarried employees constitute about 40 percent of the full-time workforce in America. While only a small percent of them have had the courage to speak up, human resource professionals are beginning to take note of the problem. That is why many larger employers have changed their terminology from "work-family" programs to "work-life" programs to help employees balance their job duties and their personal needs.

As Ms. Gage's article points out, the squeaky wheel gets oiled. It's time for unmarried workers to speak out and demand "equal pay for equal work" not only in their paychecks but also in terms of benefits compensation.

Charity begins at home. Maybe its time for single employees to support a charitable organization that promotes their well being and equal rights. The American Association for Single People is a nonprofit organization which does just that.

AASP has a "Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign" designed to make employers, unions, and employees aware of the needs and concerns of unmarried workers. Details about the project are available on our website -- www.unmarriedAmerica.com -- which we invite your readers to visit.

Membership in AASP is open to any adult, regardless of marital status, who makes a tax-deductible donation to AASP of $10 or more.

Our thanks go out to Ms. Gage for alerting your readers to this problem.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director
(800) 993-AASP
P.O. Box 65756
Los Angeles, CA 90065


July 17, 2000

Hillary: endorse our Stop the Stigma Campaign


July 17, 2000
Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate
450 Seventh Avenue, Suite 803
New York, NY 10123

Re:  Request for your endorsement of Stop the Stigma Campaign;
       say no to "illegitimate child" and no to "bastard"

Dear Ms. Clinton:

Each year about 33 percent of births in the United States involve children born to unmarried parents. As you know, unwed births are not a new phenomena. A large segment of people who are now adults were born when their parents were not married.

Our research has disclosed that a majority of states continue to stigmatize such children. In 17 states there are statutes on the books which refer to children born outside of wedlock as "bastards" or "illegitimate." Some appellate judges in 37 states refer to these children as "illegitimate."

We believe that it is time to stop the name calling. Statutes are the embodiment of the collective will of the people. Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial. We think you would agree that it is not fair to label children in such a derogatory manner.

Part of the mission of AASP is to end marital status bias against unmarried adults and their families. In furtherance of this goal, we have launched a Stop the Stigma Campaign. The enclosed brochure explains more about the campaign which is being conducted state by state. I have also enclosed some brochures about AASP and its overall mission.

I am requesting that you support our campaign to remove the term "bastard" from the statute books in several states and the term "illegitimate child" from statutes and written judicial opinions.

As a children’s rights advocate and senatorial candidate, your endorsement would help to send a loud and clear message to state and federal judges in New York that slurs should not be used to describe children born out of wedlock.

The recent news stories which accused you of using the slur "Jew bastard" some 25 years ago focused solely on the anti-Semitic portion of the allegation. None of the stories made any mention of the fact that "bastard" is a stigmatizing term in and of itself.

The news stories reported that you denied having ever made such a slur. I believe you. Such a statement would be totally out of character for a person with your integrity, especially considering your sensitivity to the needs of minorities and your dedication to the well being of children.

Should you decide to lend your endorsement to our Stop the Stigma Campaign – and I trust that you will – you may use the response form and reply envelope for that purpose.

Yours truly,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


July 12, 2000

AASP comments on new report about
The Single Female Consumer

Ira Matathia, CEO
Intelligence Factory
285 Madison Avenue
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Matathia:

The news of your report on The Single Female Consumer is very exciting.

The emergence of single women as a powerful consumer force to be reckoned with is part of a larger trend that will soon be evident, namely, that unmarried Americans as a class will be seen as a political as well as economic force that can no longer be ignored. Of course, as your study shows, single women are a major and important part of this larger class.

The American Association for Single People has been formed to promote the well being and human rights of unmarried adults, couples, parents, and families. AASP is the only national organization which makes ending marital status discrimination its top priority. AASP will do for single adults of all
ages what AARP has done for seniors -- take an un-represented class of people and give them a collective voice to be considered when decisions about their lives are being made by elected officials, union bosses, and corporate executives.

AASP now has members in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Many elected officials have joined our group, including state senators, state representatives, city council members, members of Congress, and others.

Our website -- www.unmarriedAmerica.com -- is the most authoritative source of information for and about single people on the entire Internet. When you visit our website you will find: current news, issue papers, essays, legal information, political analyses, book listings, and other information vital to the well being of single people.

Of course, we will report the news of your study on The Single Female Consumer to our members and to others who visit our website.

Please let us know if there is any way in which you think we could work together to help improve the quality of life for single women, indeed for all single adults, in the United States.

Thank you for your major contribution to this growing movement called "singles rights," which is a combination of consumer activism and human rights advocacy.

We look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


July 11, 2000

Delphi Auto systems should adopt an inclusive benefits plan

Jennifer Zajac
Financial Communications Director
Delphi Automotive Systems

Dear Ms. Zajac:

We read a news article that Delphi is considering a domestic partner benefits program for its employees.

We also noted that your headquarters are in Troy. It's interesting that the vice-president of AASP happens to live in Troy.

If you decide to move forward with dp benefits, we hope that you will institute a gender-neutral plan that is open to unmarried heterosexual partners as well as same-sex couples.

For more information about dp benefits, please visit our website. I am providing one link below, which in turn will give you access to other pages pertaining to dp benefits as well as our Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign.

If we can be of any further assistance, please let us know.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


May 30, 2000

Fight custody order and Michigan's anti-cohabitation law

Pamela,

Yes, I am sorry to say that Michigan is one of those states with an anti-cohabitation law. That law, however, requires the parties to be living together in a lewd and lascivious manner (whatever that means).

I would suggest that you oppose the judge's order and file a brief in the court arguing that the anti-cohabitation law is unconstitutional and that the judge's order violates your right to privacy and freedom of

association. If the judge refuses to back down, you should appeal the decision.

This would be a good case for the Michigan ACLU to get involved in -- and the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Do you have an attorney? If not, I could refer you to one in Detroit.

Good luck, and keep me posted on the developments in your case. This is outrageous, but nothing will change until people such as you fight back.

We invite you to join AASP. We need the support of unmarried people in Michigan. Please go to the website, fill out the membership application, and send it in. We will put you on our mailing list and keep you advised of our work and our progress.

Sincerely,

Tom Coleman

Executive Director

To read the letter from Pamela, click here.


Advocacy for Solo Singles

May 9, 2000

Hi Beth,

Your comments are perfectly timed and very appropriate.

Much of what we do on the website is to report on what is happening in the
world. Most of that has to do with unmarried couples and nonmarital families. That is the reality of what is out there. So, our reporting on what is happening will obviously be affected by what is happening.

However, part of our mission is to educate and advocate for change. Solo singles are are large, and neglected, segment of society.

When Miriam Greenwald wrote to me many months ago with a similar comment to yours, I agreed and I asked her to participate. I suggested that she might want to write an essay. She did. In fact, she has now written three essays. We created a section on the website entitled "Essays for Solo Singles." We also have links to other essays of this nature.

I have been giving much thought to the problem of solo singles, especially in
the workplace. Some of my thoughts were shared in an interview by KCET public television in Los Angeles recently. We just posted the transcript of that interview on the website. As you can see, most of it deals with solo singles. See http://www.unmarriedamerica.com/kcet-tv.htm

I am currently developing a "Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign" for AASP. We will survey the Fortune 500 companies to determine their policies and programs with respect to marital status discrimination and single workers. I have found several articles published in Human Resource magazines about grumbling by solo singles. Most of these singles are heterosexual but many are gay and lesbian.

The domestic partnership benefits programs which are catching on are doing nothing for solo singles. We will encourage employers to respect solo singles as part of the diversity in the workplace. We will also be willing to contact specific employers at the request of AASP members to bring this issue to their attention.

Your e-mail message gives me encouragement and stimulation to finish the development of this Singles Friendly Workplace Campaign program. Look for the announcement of it soon on the website.

Thanks again for your comments.

Tom Coleman
Executive Director

To read the letter from Beth, click here.


Congratulations to NIKE Corporation

May 3, 2000

Corby Casler
NIKE, Inc.

Dear Mr. Casler:

We would like to congratulate the NIKE corporation on the expansion of  its permanent partner benefits program to include the children of an employee's domestic partner.

We have reported this story in both the public news section of our website as well as in the domestic partner news pages.

AASP is the only national organization that makes the elimination of marital status discrimination its top priority. We promote the well being and human rights of unmarried adults, couples, parents, and families.

We assume that a large segment of your workforce in unmarried. Please feel free to share information about AASP with them.

Sincerely,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director

(Note: NIKE is a Fortune 500 company with a domestic partner benefits program open to the unmarried partners of employees, regardless of their gender.)


California Domestic Partner Registry is a Weak
Foundation to Build Future Legislation on


March 20, 2000

Hon. Sheila Kuehl
California Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: AB 2211 / background materials and some policy concerns

Dear Sheila:

I was contacted last week by your office requesting information regarding the problem unmarried couples face with respect to the inability of a survivor to sue for wrongful death or emotional distress when their partner is killed by a wrongdoer.

This issue was addressed in the final report of the Los Angeles City Task Force on Family Diversity in 1988. I was a special consultant to the Task Force and was the author of its final report. A section of that report focused on Domestic Partnership Families, making a specific reference to victim and survivor rights (page 83) and how current state law is unfair to unmarried couples. Recommendation #86 was directed to a Task Force convened by the California Legislature. It stated: (page 85)

"The Task Force recommends that the Joint Select Task Force on the Changing Family study and propose revisions in laws regulating causes of action based on wrongful death, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, so that rights of domestic partners as victims and survivors may be more adequately and equitably protected by California law."

The Joint Select Task Force on the Changing Family was convened by the California Legislature in 1987. Six legislators and 20 public members served on the Task Force. I was one of the 20 public members and chaired the Couples Workgroup of the Task Force. The workgroup studied the inability of a survivor to sue a tortfeasor who intentionally or negligently killed a domestic partner. It presented a report on this problem to the full Task Force.

The Joint Select Task Force issued its first year report to the Legislature in June 1989. One section of the report focused on protecting adults living in unmarried family relationships from the loss of economic security. The report stated: (page 100)

"Serious gaps exist in the law giving crime victims and their economically dependent partners recourse against wrongdoers. If a couple is married and one member is seriously injured or killed, the other can sue for damages to the marriage, emotional trauma, or wrongful death. However, if a member of an unmarried couple is killed or maimed, the survivor, even if he or she was entirely economically dependent on the partner, has no recourse to sue."

To rectify this gap in the law – which currently prevents an unmarried survivor from suing a drunk driver or even a murderer for the wrongful death of the survivor’s domestic partner – the full Task Force recommended that the Legislature "amend the wrongful death statute to allow unmarried adult dependents who resided with the deceased to sue for damages caused by a wrongful death." (Page 102)

For your convenience, I have included copies of the relevant sections of each of the reports mentioned above.

I should stress that each of these reports and their recommendations were premised on an assumption that any legislative remedy to the problem would help all unmarried couples, not just same-sex couples or heterosexual couples over the age of 62.

The current domestic partner registry established by the Legislature last year discriminates against young and middle-age heterosexual domestic partners. I know that you would have preferred a gender-neutral registration system and that it was Governor Gray Davis who insisted that the law be limited to same-sex couples. It was due to the persistence of Singles Rights Lobby, the legislative advocacy affiliate of AASP, that the Governor relented and finally allowed some heterosexual domestic partners, i.e., seniors, to participate in the new system.

The new registry is strange. Census data shows that about 70% of unmarried couples are heterosexual. Data from employers with gender-neutral domestic partner benefits programs indicate that about two-thirds of participating employees are in opposite-sex relationships. Despite the evidence that the large majority of domestic partners are heterosexual, most of them are excluded from the new California registry. A domestic partner registry that excludes the majority of domestic partners?

Because hundreds of thousands of unmarried heterosexual couples in California are excluded from the current domestic partnership registry, this system is not a good foundation to build upon, at least not until all unmarried heterosexual couples, regardless of their age, are allowed to participate.

Also, many same-sex couples may not be ready to openly declare their sexual orientation by signing up in a public registry, especially if they live in a politically or socially conservative area.

Paula Ettelbrick heads the Family Relationships Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. I share her concern with the current trend to restrict legal protections to people who register their relationships with the government. Domestic partnership registries are not necessarily the best way to solve inequities in current law, especially when most unmarried couples, including most same-sex couples will not register with the government, for a variety of personal reasons.

There are other ways to protect survivors by enabling them to sue wrongdoers who cause the death of an unmarried partner, ways that do not require participating in a public registration system and ways that do not exclude hundreds of thousands of people from the reform.

The right to sue the wrongdoer should not depend on the gender of the parties or whether they have a marriage certificate or a domestic partnership certificate. We should be creative in developing ways to protect unmarried adults who lose a household member to whom they were economically and emotionally attached.

For example, the law could be amended to allow any adult who shared the same household with the deceased to sue the wrongdoer – for wrongful death or emotional distress – if the survivor can prove that he or she was fully or partially dependent on the deceased. The amount of damages would depend, in part, on the extent to which the survivor was dependent. Also, the law could give standing to sue to anyone whom the deceased designated as a significant beneficiary in his or her will, let say, anyone who receives 25% or more of the deceased’s estate. Neither of these methods requires a public registry.

Justice will not be served by simply adding more rights and benefits to the current domestic partnership registration system, especially when the majority of domestic partners are excluded from the system and also because large numbers of same-sex couples will not participate in a public registry, at least not at this time.

Your bill also would add a "domestic partner" box to the statutory will form so that someone could use this form to leave assets to his or her registered domestic partner. As currently written, it would appear that the testamentary gift would be invalid unless the decedent and the beneficiary were registered with the Secretary of State. Heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 and 62 – in other words the majority of domestic partners – would not be able to use the statutory will form to leave assets to each other. This is unfair and unnecessary.

Furthermore, unmarried blood relatives may not use the state domestic partner registry. There is no place currently on the statutory will form for an unmarried adult to make a bequest to a blood relative such as a sister or brother.

If the statutory will form is going to be amended, why not make it work for all 10 million unmarried adults so everyone can use it to designate one or two beneficiaries regardless of their marital status? This is a "no cost" item. As such, the reform should be a generic as possible to help as many people as possible.

Finally, I would like to mention the reciprocity clause in your bill. As it is now worded, your bill would insure that couples who have registered as domestic partners with cities or counties or states outside of California would have their domestic partnership status recognized within California should they travel here for a visit, or have a part-time residence here, or even move here permanently. That is a laudable goal.

I was informed that you are considering amending the bill to restrict the reciprocity clause to couples who have registered outside of California if and only if they would have qualified to register with the Secretary of State in California. In other words, the amendment under consideration would tell heterosexual domestic partners between the ages of 18 and 62 – again, the majority of domestic partners in the nation fit this category – that if they visit or move to California our laws would treat them as total strangers to each other and not as family members.

You strongly opposed Proposition 22. You believed that California should recognize marriages from out of state as valid inside California even if the couple could not have been married inside California. This state has always recognized family relationships as valid in this state if they were valid in the state in which they were created. Proposition 22 was designed to create an exception to this rule. You, most Democrats, and many Republicans did not want to chip away at the rule of reciprocity with respect to family relationships.

Are we now going to create a Prop 22 for domestic partnerships? That is what the proposed amendment to the reciprocity clause of your bill would do.

The voters, over your objection, amended the rule of reciprocity to include a gender restriction with respect to out of state marriages. Do we really want to use Prop 22 as a model for the reciprocity clause of your domestic partnership bill by having the state refuse to recognize heterosexual domestic partners from out of state? Just imagine the result. A 60-year-old couple from out of state are visiting California on vacation. A drunk driver causes an accident and the primary breadwinner is killed. The surviving domestic partner would not be able to sue the drunk driver for damages because the survivor and the decedent, although registered with the city of Denver as domestic partners, were a heterosexual couple. That is the result that would be created if you amend your bill to include a Prop 22 style reciprocity clause.

I know that you are a very intelligent and equally thoughtful person. I am sharing this information and these concerns with you in the hopes that you will take the appropriate actions as your bill moves forward.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance or if you would like to discuss these issues further.

Very truly yours,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director


Information for High School Research Project

March 4, 2000

J. Tatol
Coral Reef High
Miami, Florida

Dear Ms. Tatol:

This sounds like an interesting but challenging project. Good luck.

Singles are an "invisible" minority in as much as marital status demographics are over overlooked when surveys are being done.

There are 4.6 million unmarried men and women in Florida, making Florida number 4 when it comes to the largest number of singles among all states. For a ranking of the top 10 states, see: http://singlesrights.com/mstatus.html

Some information on voting trends can be found on our Singles Rights Lobby website at: Click Here.

Most states continue to stigmatize children born to unmarried parents. The list of offending states is found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~singlesrights/ill-laws.html

About 32% of children in the United States are born to unmarried parents. To see how this compares with other nations, see: http://singlesrights.com/unwedint.html

About 36% of children born in Florida in recent years were born out of wedlock. The number of unwed births in Florida seems to be increasing slightly. For a list of states, including Florida, see: http://singlesrights.com/mstatus.html

Most states do not include "marital status" in their civil rights laws. The list of states can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~singlesrights/biaslaws.html

Many states, including Florida, continue to prohibit private sexual conduct between unmarried adults. Please see: http://home.earthlink.net/~singlesrights/privacy.html

For a more comprehensive list of issues and problems affecting single people, see our website at: http://singlesrights.com/issues.html

For more demographics about singles, see: http://singlesrights.com/facts.html

For 1990 Census data for Miami, go to:
http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup/CMD=LIST/DB=C90STF3A/LEV=STATE
and then select Florida and check the box for "Go to state level - place". This will take you to a new page where you can select a city and when you get there you should be able to select "marital status by sex" as well as "household type and size" and other data. I just connected there and it took me to: http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup/952208069

I checked off box: p-1, p-5, p-19, p-27.

I hope this information is useful.

Please send me a copy of what your class develops.

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director

To see the letter dated March 4, 2000, to which this reply was sent, click here.


A Different Type of Singles Group

February 13, 2000

Mimi Avins
Editorial Department
Los Angeles Times

Dear Ms. Avins,

I read with interest your article on dating services for singles, especially your discussion about all of the businesses on the Internet making lots of money helping singles to become "unsingle." The article was well written and especially timely considering that tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

I have had a chance to search the Internet, looking for other types of singles sites. What I have found is that virtually all singles groups involve dating or matchmaking or social and recreational activities. In contrast, one finds sites for racial and ethnic minorities, women, gays, seniors, and other groups which focus heavily on legal, political, economic, and other serious issued affecting the whole person. Not so for singles groups, at least not until the emergence of the American Association for Single People.

AASP promotes the well being and civil rights of unmarried adults, couples, parents, and children. It is the only national organization making marital status discrimination its top priority. Our website is the most authoritative source of information about and for single people on the entire Internet. Our headquarters are right here in Los Angeles. Another example of a social and political movement starting in Southern California.

There are millions of unmarried adults in this region. Thousands of them read the Los Angeles Times. They might appreciate knowing there is a non-profit organization looking out for their interests.

Please visit our website when you have an opportunity.

You will probably be surprised to see the broad range of issues affecting unmarried Americans. Our "Recent News" section summarizes scores of articles of interest to single people. While some are local, many are national or international. Scores of past stories are stored in our archive sections. We also list books of interest to all types of singles: solo singles, single women, single parents, domestic partners, divorcees, widowed people, etc. The site contains more than 300 pages of information.

Maybe someday you would like to write an article about AASP and the emergence of a singles rights movement. If your schedule is too busy, please feel free to share this information with the Features Editor at the Times.

Single people are currently in the same position that seniors were in 30 years ago when they lacked a collective voice in American society. AARP
was formed to fill this advocacy and educational void. Today, AARP is the largest national membership organization in the nation, with 30 million members. We hope to organize many of the 80 million unmarried Americans in the same way and to insure that corporate, labor, and civil leaders pay attention to the needs of singles. It will take time, to be sure, but it can and will be done.

Please let me know if I can supply you any other information.

Very truly yours,

Thomas F. Coleman
Executive Director

 

Letters sent in 1999

 

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