This page contains news for
the period Monday, November 15, 1999 through Sunday, November 21, 1999.
<< November 1999 >>
Friday, November 19, 1999
fathers in Great Britain to get new rights
An article published today in the London Times
reports that unmarried fathers will have automatic joint parental rights with mothers
under reforms planned by the Government. It plans to amend the Children Act 1989 so that
unmarried fathers who register a child's birth jointly with the mother will immediately
acquire parental responsibility.
The reform, which is to be brought in as soon as there is a
legislative slot, was announced yesterday by Jane Kennedy, the Junior Minister at the Lord
The story says that Kennedy, a mother of two boys, told a conference
in London that it was one area that was "very relevant to many fathers, which we
recognize needs attention." At present, unmarried fathers do not automatically
acquire such rights and have to seek a joint parental responsibility order from the court.
There is growing concern among some men that the law discriminates
against them as parents, either on the dissolution of a marriage or if they are unmarried
More than one third of the total births registered in England and
Wales were outside marriage in 1996, but only a small number of parental responsibilities
exist because many people assume, wrongly, that unmarried fathers automatically have
responsibility if they jointly register the birth.
The story says that the reform is part of a package of measures
planned to help fathers to maintain a strong parental role with their children and give
them wider support. From next month, parents will be entitled to 13 weeks' parental leave
to be taken during the first five years of a child's life. For the first time, fathers,
too, will be entitled to leave, including non-resident fathers.
Thursday, November 17, 1999
New PaCS law begins today in France
A law giving legal protections to unmarried
couples was signed on November 15 by President Chirac, Prime Minister Jospin and seven
cabinet ministers. The law is referred to as PaCS, an acronym for Civil Solidarity
According to instructions issued by Justice
Minister Elizabeth Guigo, the law is effective immediately. That means that couples
may begin registering with local municipalities today.
A "user manual" was released last
week by the minister of Justice in order to explain the content of the law, the
registration process, and to specify what documents will be needed.
Belgium has legal
protections for unmarried partners
The November issue of Euro-Letter reports
that under a new law in Belgium, any two unmarried adults may bind themselves by a
statutory Cohabitation Contract. The procedure is available to any two unmarried
adults, regardless of gender, including blood relatives.
To be valid, the contract must be signed in
the presence of a notary public and entered in the Register of Population in the
municipality where they are living together.
While the contract is in effect, both
partners are jointly responsible for the expenses incurred in their life together and all
reasonable debts incurred for this purpose, in proportion to their means. Each
benefits individually from his or her earned income.
All inheritable property and other assets
acquired while the contract is in effect are deemed to be owned jointly, in the absence of
proof to the contrary.
Each partner: (1) remains liable to submit
an individual income tax return; (2) retains parental authority over his or her children;
(3) remains regarded as an individual so far as social security and pension rights are
concerned; and (4) remains regarded as an individual for the purpose of adoption and
medically assisted procreation.
A Cohabitation Contract does not affect
existing laws on inheritance or immigration. The contract may be terminated at any
time by agreement of the parties, or at the initiative of either of them. Any
disputes would be decided in the local Magistrate Court.
Wednesday, November 16, 1999
court orders social security benefits for same-sex partners
A story published today by Woxner
International News reports that on November 3, 1999, Colombia's 26th Branch Civilian Court
ordered the Social Security Institute (SSI) to extend medical benefits to the male partner
of a gay man who is covered by the national health-care system.
According to the story, both men have AIDS and take an
antiretroviral drug "cocktail." One man is covered by SSI because he is
disabled. The other recently lost his job and health benefits, and then sought coverage on
his partner's policy.
At first, the men were granted spousal coverage by the institute,
but when they went to exchange their temporary ID cards for permanent ones, they were told
the agency had changed its mind.
The story says that local activists claim that the court's ruling
marks the first time a Colombian judge has recognized a same-sex couple as de-facto
Italian village considers taxing unmarried men and women
An article published today in the Minneapolis
Star Tribune reports that the town of Vastogirardi, Italy is considering taxing unmarried
adults as a way to prod them to marry and to raise revenue to support families from those
who remain single.
Aghast by the number of adults who show no desire to marry or have
children -- 50 men and 20 women in a village of 823 people -- Mayor Vincenzo Venditti sees
the tax as necessary.
"This is a real problem, a serious problem," he said
earnestly as a group of single men grinned sheepishly behind him. "We risk losing
everything, our culture, our traditions, our schools. It is useless to ask for economic
investment if we cannot keep our village alive to use it."
The story describes Vastogirardi, a small village southern Italy as
being typical of rural areas throughout Europe, where migration from small towns and
falling birthrates are producing a devastating demographic shift.
It says the population of Vastogirardi, known for its delicate
hand-made cheeses, has shrunk by two-thirds in 30 years as younger people have left for
better jobs and bigger towns. The only bank closed down years ago; two of four churches
have closed, and the local priest commutes from a town 12 miles away.
"So far this year I have performed only two weddings, and six
funerals," said the priest, Father Erasmo. "Nobody seems to idealize the family
anymore." Last year, only one baby was born in Vastogirardi.
Birthrates are low all over Western Europe, but Italy and Spain,
have the lowest birthrate of all: an average of 1.2 children per woman, slightly lower
than in Greece and considerably lower than the rate of 2.1. in the United States.
The story says there are objective reasons that Italy's birthrate is
so low: government aid to families with children is lower than in France or Germany. There
are also cultural differences; studies show that, in Italy, women who work outside the
home still bear the brunt of domestic chores.
Marzio Barbagli, a sociologist at the University of Bologna, says
that Italian men have not yet adjusted to accommodate working wives.
"If women work at the office and also do everything in the
home, something has to give," he said, "and that tends to be a second
The story says that many scholars blame younger adults who don't
want to leave home because they are too dependent on their aging parents.
"Maybe it is my fault," Ada Marracino, 70, said as she
readied lunch for her husband and two children, a son and daughter who are both in their
mid-40s, unmarried and living at home. "These children just don't count the
Her husband, Alfredo, smiled sadly. "It used to be the kids who
would look after the old people," he said. "Around here, it is the
Venditti figures that unless something dramatic is done to increase
birthrates, the village nursery school will have to close.
Already there are not enough children to fill the elementary school:
first and third grades are taught together, as are fourth and fifth grades. There is no
middle or high school.
The story says that Venditti, who actually lives in Isernia, a town
21 miles away, so his teenage children will not have to take a bus to school, concedes
that his tax on singles will probably be ruled unconstitutional, but he said he had to
serve notice to the town and the world at large.
Monday, November 15, 1999
gathering promotes biological families
A story published today in the Desert News reports that organizers
of the World Congress of Families II opened their first full day of meetings Monday at the
U.N. complex in Geneva. The group is determined to make clear that they are serious about
defending the "natural" family.
Speakers used the U.N. pulpit from which they noted some
"anti-family" proposals have been delivered to tout society's reliance on
the natural family as society's "most basic social unit."
The story says that several hundred pro-family delegates attending
the session were asked to draft legislation during the conference to combat proposals now
pending before the United Nations that would "not only disregard, but undermine"
family life, according to Richard Wilkins, director of the World Family Policy Center at
Brigham Young University.
BYU and the LDS Church's Relief Society are among the conference's
Margaret Ogola, director of the Family Life Counseling Association
of Kenya, criticized the "massive collapse of (the) almost universal ideal" of
traditional family life. She said contraceptives, demystification of sex, free sex
education focusing on pregnancy avoidance rather than sexual abstinence and the media's
proliferation of "the culture of pleasure" have all overstepped the traditional
view of family life.
Wilkins urged delegates to form coalitions and to act with a unified
voice in fighting for the natural family. "This is not just a pep rally we're
involved in." He noted that several international policy documents already contain
family-friendly language and that those policies need to be understood and applied in a
The conference, which includes delegates from most of the world's
major religions, was designed in part to allow delegates to draft their own proposal
to be known as the "Geneva Declaration" that will call on U.N.
policymakers to consider the consequences of specific legislation, particularly with
regard to population control issues, the rights of children and same-sex marriage.
Bishop John Njue of the Catholic diocese of Embu in Kenya, told
delegates at opening ceremonies Sunday night that "the power of evil" is
advocating alternative forms of the family by devaluing motherhood, urging abortion for
poor women and scoffing at sexual abstinence. Population control policies are particularly
devastating in developing nations where "family members are the only Social Security
most people will ever have."
Conference organizers had to scramble to relocate the conference
when officials with the historic St. Pierre's Cathedral informed them little more than 24
hours before the opening ceremony was to begin on Sunday that they would not be welcome,
after originally granting the interfaith group permission to use the building.
Managers of the Cathedral were concerned that the conference was
being organized by the Mormon Church and that a radically conservative Catholic bishop
would be speaking, facts of which they were previously unaware. A letter issued Saturday
said members of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, a more liberal body, were not
comfortable with the arrangement and that the building would not be available.
"I know we lost the cathedral because they saw that Archbishop
(John) Njue and Cardinal Lopez Trujillo have been outspoken on maintaining the traditional
position that marriage is reserved for men and women and that homosexuality is a
sin," Wilkins said. "While we weren't told, we assume that was the reason we
were not allowed into the cathedral."
Scotland planning an equal rights bill
for same-sex couples
A story published today by the BBC News
reports that the Scottish Parliament is to consider changing the law so that gay couples
have the same rights as unmarried heterosexual couples.
A committee headed by former Secretary of State for Scotland Bruce
Millan is looking at extending the definition of "nearest relative" to include
same sex partners.
The story says that if the proposed is adopted, Scotland will be the
first part of the United Kingdom to offer the rights of married or cohabiting couples to
It appears that the change will be incorporated into the Adults With
Incapacity (Scotland) Bill. That means same-sex couples will be given legal guardianship
of their partners if they become mentally of physically incapacitated.
Equality bill in Canada
will save taxpayers money
A story published today by Southam News in the
National Post reports that a majority of gay and lesbian couples will be financial losers
when the federal government rewrites dozens of laws to include same-sex partners, says a
Finance Department study.
The federal government, which plans to change dozens of statutes
next year, will save an estimated $20-million a year in tax revenue, mainly at the expense
of the poorest gays and lesbians. "You would have losers and most would be low-income
earners," said Albert Wakkary, a tax policy officer and author of the paper, obtained
by Southam News.
The story says the biggest financial setback is that about
two-thirds of same-sex couples will have to forgo the approximately $28-million they
collectively claim in the goods and services credit for low- and middle-income earners
because partners will be required to combine their incomes together. As a result, about
93,000 of an estimated 140,000 same-sex couples in Canada will have to pay almost $300
more per year in income tax.
On the other side of the ledger, the government will lose about
$8-million in other benefits, mainly the married and equivalent-to-married credit for
supporting a dependent.
The article says that although the overall savings to the
$77-billion tax system will be very negligent, they dispel suspicions among critics that
extending benefits to same-sex couples would be a drain on taxpayers.
The government also gained tax revenue when it changed legislation
in 1993 to extend equal tax treatment to common-law couples. But many tax breaks that
affect common-law couples, such as child benefits, will be virtually non-existent for
The government is basing its figures on an assumption that 1.5% of
couples are gay. The estimate comes from a 1990 Statistics Canada study on consumer
finances, which included homes in which two unrelated adults of the same sex live
together, excluding students. The survey, which did not ask about sexual orientation,
concluded that over 90% of same-sex households consist of two-income earners.
Some government leaders are concerned that bringing gays and
lesbians under the spousal umbrella could make the tax system harder to police because
there is no way to confirm same-sex relationships in the absence of a marriage license.
The prospect that couples will only claim their status when it is
financially beneficial is a problem that also exists on a much larger scale for common-law
couples of the opposite sex, says the Finance Department report. The potential for abuse
could be reduced if the government adopts registered domestic partnerships, in which all
couples in relationships of economic dependency, ranging from widowed siblings to even old
army buddies, simply have to sign up to be included in the benefits and obligations
currently reserved for married and common-law couples.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan said recently that the government is
considering the prospect of a registration system.
"Recognizing registered domestic partnerships could reduce
abuse by providing veritable proof of a relationship," said Mr. Wakkary's paper,
which was prepared last month and is based on 1994 data.