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U.S. News Archive
August 09 - August 15, 1999

 

 

 

 

This page contains news for the period Sunday, August 09, 1999 through Sunday, August 15, 1999.


 

 

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Friday, August 13, 1999

Patricia Ireland answers "What Makes a Family?"

Patricia Ireland has been the president of the National Organization for Women since December 1991. Her term runs through 2000.

ABCnews.com interviewed her today as part of its series on "What Makes a Family?" Some of the questions Ireland answered included:

  1. Why is it that women keep complaining that they want a career and a family? Why can't they understand that they have to make a choice and deal with it?
  2. What effect has the women's movement had on the number of single parent families in this country, and are we better off now?
  3. In our home, my husband is the parent who stays at home with the children and I work outside the home. Do you see more of this happening and how do you feel about these arrangements for parenting?
  4. Why do you think the divorce rate is hovering at 50% -60%? What do you think needs to happen to change that trend?
  5. I am making a documentary film about gay fathers. I have encountered several people who believe that gay men cannot be good parents and should not be allowed to adopt children. What is your view on gay fathering?

Click here to read the complete transcript of this interview.

 

Thursday, August 12, 1999

Sociology professor discusses family variations: single parents, gay couples, multi-generation households

ABCnews.con conducted an online interview with a family expert, asking what is the nucleus of American life. Who can say anymore what makes a family?

Discussing the social, economic and political forces that have changed the face of the family was Dr. Mark Hutter, professor of sociology at Rowan University. Dr. Hutter is the author of The Changing Family and The Family Experience. Dr. Hutter answered questions from online audience participants.

He addressed the following questions:

  1. What is the most significant change in family dynamics over the last 20 years besides both parents working?
  2. What is the effect of dividing extended families into small, nuclear groups? If family is important, why do we scatter our family across the nation?
  3. What do you think about the growing number of single parents in the United States?
  4. Do you find any correlation between the strength of families and the amount a wealth a family has?
  5. I'm a gay male who has been in a very happy, monogamous relationship for almost 12 yrs now. Very rarely does the media portray happy, well adjusted gay couples. Why is that?
  6. Do you think there is a lack of psychological/emotional support for children who are raised in single parent families? Do you feel that the fact that more children are being brought up in single parent homes will have an impact on our social structure in the future?

Click here for the complete interview, including Dr. Hutter's answers to these questions.

 

Wednesday, August 11, 1999

NGLTF praises airlines for taking a "first step" by extending domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples, but criticizes them for excluding heterosexual unmarried couples.

NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE PRESS RELEASE

Contact: David Elliot, Communications Director
202_332_6483 ext. 3303
800_757_6476 pager
delliot@ngltf.org
http://www.ngltf.org
1700 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC

FAIR SKIES FOR SAME_SEX AIRLINE EMPLOYEES

"The recent decisions to offer domestic partner benefits to same sex couples is a good first step. But airlines should offer benefits for unmarried opposite-sex couples as well."

--NGLTF Executive Director Kerry Lobel

Aug. 10, 1999 - A flurry of announcements by three of the nation's leading airlines that they will now offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples marks true progress, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said today.

"The recent decisions by American Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways to offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples is a good first step and recognizes the value not only of gay and lesbian employees, but also of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered travel dollars," said NGLTF Executive Director Kerry Lobel.

But Lobel added that the announcements by American Airlines and United Airlines were not entirely satisfactory because full benefits will not be extended to unmarried opposite-sex couples.

(The third airline, US Airways, has announced it will provide domestic partner benefits but has not released details of its program, a corporate spokesperson told NGLTF Tuesday.) "It's a bittersweet victory when gay and lesbian couples get their benefits but others are excluded," Lobel said.

Under United Airlines' new policy, gay and lesbian couples will receive full benefits, including health and pension coverage. Unmarried opposite-sex couples will receive only "noneconomic" benefits, such as flight discounts and bereavement or medical leave. United and American are hardly alone in excluding unmarried heterosexual coverage. Of the more than 1,000 companies in the United States that offer domestic partner benefits, about 40 percent exclude unmarried opposite-sex couples, including Disney, American Express and AT&T.

Lobel noted that an argument frequently cited against offering benefits to unmarried opposite-sex couples is that, unlike gay and lesbian couples, they have the right to marry. "That's not the point," Lobel said. "This is an issue of workplace equity, equal pay for equal work. There are a variety of reasons why an opposite-sex couple may choose not to marry - religious reasons, opposition to the institution of marriage, potential loss of pension benefits, for example. Employers should recognize that today's families come in all shapes and forms. Every family is entitled to health care, pension coverage and other benefits that come from domestic partner policies."

Government funds being used to promote abstinance until marriage; programs being expanded from teens to unmarried adults in their twenties

Chastity Makes a Comeback

Abstinence-only programs for teens are changing the face of sex education today. While conservatives relish the achievement, liberals are put on defensive.

By LYNN SMITH, Times Staff Writer

YORBA LINDA -- Thanks to some inappropriate talking and staple-throwing, the uniformed 13-and 14-year-olds at Bernardo Yorba Middle School have been made to sit for roll call. When they are quiet, the teacher introduces today's guest speaker, a friendly looking woman in a short skirt, who also, they are told, suffered the consequences of imperfect behavior.

Her problem, however, was sex.

Some kids look alarmed, others shake their heads in sympathy, as Mary Slosted, 42, leads them through her roller coaster life of childhood
molestation, sex at 16 in the back seat of a Volkswagen, two abortions, depression, suicidal thoughts, anorexia and overeating, marriage and divorce and, finally, redemption through sexual abstinence.

After her divorce, she tells the students, she didn't have sex for nine years until she remarried at age 37. Then, she confides to a few snickers, it was an exciting "all-night affair."

Slosted represents Choices, a private, Fullerton-based program that teaches students they should wait until they are married to have sex. Programs like Choices, whose 20 speakers brought its message of chastity last year to 17,000 students in Orange County, are changing the face of sex education in the United States.

If teaching sexual abstinence sounded hopelessly dated a few years ago, it is now blessed by federal and state governments. With $500 million in public funds, hundreds of new programs are instructing children that premarital sex will likely have "harmful psychological and physical effects" and that condoms and other contraceptives are unreliable. Even California, the only state to reject federal money for abstinence-only programs, has funded Choices with about $400,000.

As such programs proliferate, they are challenging the long-established trinity of sex education -- human sexuality, safe sex and birth control. This turn of events has led some religious conservatives to proclaim victory over what they see as the corrosive effects of the '60s. "The sexual revolution came and went and sex lost," declares Leslee Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has counted about 1,000 abstinence programs nationwide. "This is our moment in time."

In the last two years, 698 new abstinence-only programs and 21 new media campaigns have been funded by the federal government with state matching funds. In Chicago, where teen pregnancy rates have soared to 40%, a new curriculum adopted last fall teaches abstinence as the best choice, rather than one of several options. Sweetwater, Texas, population 12,000, has created a position for an "abstinence education coordinator."

For the first time in years, liberal sex educators are on the defensive. They insist they have always believed that young people should delay having sex until they are physically and emotionally mature.  But, they warn, the prevalence of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease makes it imperative to fund programs that tell teenagers how to protect themselves and others.

Because sex education touches on deeply held moral beliefs, it has always been a volatile subject in the United States. Sarah Brown, director of the private, nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, identifies some of the issues that such programs inherently raise: "The roles of men and women. Feelings about the sanctity of children.  What does sex mean? What's the role of sex in marriage? People start talking about abstinence and all of a sudden they're having a discussion about the American family."

The irony of the current debate is that school programs alone are unlikely to dent problems of teenage sexual behavior and pregnancy, says Brown, whose organization supports research-based efforts through the media and community organizations as well as schools. "In the great cultural landscape of teenagers, they're a very small part. Most teachers who offer them are not very well trained. The notion that six hours in two years can make a huge dent on something as important as adolescent pregnancy is naive."

Lobbyist Instrumental in Leading Movement

If there is an architect of the abstinence-only movement, it would be a rumpled and graying 47-year-old lobbyist named Robert Rector. A policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, Rector has focused on illegitimacy as a source of social problems and is considered a leading thinker among religious conservatives. In 1994, when the Republicans swept into Congress poised to reform welfare, one senator's aide recalled, "Robert had a proposal in hand, and abstinence was a part of it."

Conservatives' concern about family breakdown was running so high, says Jennifer Marshall, a former colleague at Heritage, that "a lot of us who worked on the welfare reform bill really felt that whether or not people went back to work was not even as important as the status of marriage and the family."

When Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) approached Rector to help draft the 1996 federal Welfare Reform Act, the policy analyst suggested the bill set aside funds to teach that sex outside marriage is wrong.

"We were looking for programs helping children practice self-control when they're minors," Rector says, "but also helping them understand the role of self-control in marriage in their adult lives. This is really not an issue solely about what teenagers are
doing in the back seats of cars. It's an issue about the breakdown of adult relationships between men and women."

Rector says that when he surveyed school programs that stressed abstinence, he found "essentially condom-delivery programs with a little bit of abstinence tacked on to the front. We felt we had to create some true abstinence programs to see what they could actually do."

Led by Rector, representatives from the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, a Washington-based family values advocacy group and others worked for months to draft tightly worded language that would prevent liberal-minded administrators from using potential funds for comprehensive sex education programs.

The measure said programs can receive money only if they teach the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by refraining from sexual activity; that abstinence is the expected standard for all school-age children; that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity; and that sexual activity outside marriage is likely to have "harmful physical and psychological effects."  Funds cannot be used to endorse birth control.

Tucked into the miscellaneous Title IX of the welfare legislation, the item escaped the scrutiny of sex education lobbyists, who were surprised to see the proposal appear from the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee.

"This was in one of the dead-of-night provisions," says James Wagner, president of Advocates for Youth, an advocacy group that favors comprehensive programs. "There were no hearings on this prior to enactment."

At first, members of Planned Parenthood urged state legislators to "just say no" to the money.  Nevertheless, in the first two years of the five-year program, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded matching grants to all 50 states. Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and Georgia adopted the provisions into their own education laws.

Led by the Democrats, California lawmakers rejected the abstinence-only program, partly because its own abstinence-only program was found to be ineffective and because the state already has a $70-million initiative in place to reduce teen pregnancy. Half of California's two-year share of the matching grants, $5.75 million, is about to be returned to the federal government, according to state sources.

Official reviews show that the federal funds have set in motion moderate as well as extreme elements.  In Arizona, programs aim to "change a culture" about out-of-wedlock sexual activity and target adults up to age 45 as well as children. On the other hand, Massachusetts has used the funds exclusively for an advertising campaign targeting preteens and parents.

In Utah, even a Planned Parenthood affiliate has tapped into the money for a school program called "Growing Up Comes First," that teaches "maturation" issues to 10- through 12-year-olds and their parents. Lynda Ion, director of Planned Parenthood's community services, says the program stresses respect, self-knowledge and candor about sexual issues. "We're not going to tell the kids they're going to hell."

Long-Term Impact of Sex Education Unclear

Sex educators like to say that everyone gets sex education, if not from the classroom, from the informal curriculum of parents and friends, movies and TV, the lunchroom and the playground. "The question is never sexuality education yes or no," says Debra Haffner, president of the Sexuality Information Education Council of the United States. "The question is whether it's left to chance or taught by trained teachers in a comprehensive program that covers a range of attitudes and skills that young people need."

Still, the long-term effect of formal sex education is unclear because what passes for sex education can differ radically from state to state, not to mention teacher to teacher. Depending on where they live and the prevailing political winds, children might still be hearing biological facts from the gym coach, practicing refusal skills in a Planned Parenthood class or going down to Safeway to buy condoms as a homework assignment.

No matter what the course, teachers' values or embarrassment can't help but "ooze out of their pores," says sex educator Lynda Madaras. As a result, she says, teenagers rarely hear what advocates in both camps say they need most: how to craft meaningful relationships from the complex ambiguities of everyday life.

As the age gap between puberty and marriage has grown over the years, most sex educators have come to see sexual activity among young people as inevitable. Recent surveys, however, report that previously unprecedented rates of sexual activity among teenagers have started to drop. Now, less than half of all high school students have had sex. In 1998, the average age of first intercourse was 16.3, up from 15.8 in 1997, according to the Durex Global Survey. Teen pregnancies, abortions and births have also declined. On the other hand, 3 million new cases of STDs are diagnosed among teenagers each year, and half of all new HIV cases occur among those under age 25.

"In general," says Madaras, "kids today who have it together, have it a lot more together. But a lot more kids are slipping through the cracks than ever before."

Contrary to popular images, teen sex is rarely sexy, Madaras says. Some have sex to be popular, to achieve status, or to prove they're not gay. "For most kids," Madaras says, "having sex is like holding their nose and jumping into an ice-cold pool."

Some liberal sex educators admit that abstinence is a subject many students need to hear more about.  Dr. Drew Pinsky, co-host of the raunchy and irreverent MTV and syndicated radio show "Loveline," champions abstinence as the best choice for teenagers' emotional health. Most girls under age 18, he says, are not prepared for an intense emotional bond. When they have sex too soon, they risk depression in addition to pregnancy and disease. Young men, he says, can become clingy if they have sex before they are "fully developed and autonomous as a person."

But Pinsky says abstinence alone is a dangerous--even immoral--policy beyond a certain age. Surveys show that fewer than 15% of those who marry are virgins. By withholding knowledge, spreading medical misinformation and including anti-abortion messages, liberal advocates say many abstinence-only programs leave people without any backup plan to protect themselves from pregnancy or disease.

Looking to Expand Abstinence Programs

Meanwhile, Robert Rector is looking to expand abstinence education.

"The next step of the debate in my mind is to recognize that we don't just have a problem with teen sexuality; we have a problem with young adult sexuality," he says. "Almost all unmarried people in their 20s are sexually active, and a lot of this behavior is not moving toward stable relationships. That's a very serious thing."

He has already been lobbying state officials to mix a pro-marriage message with their welfare programs. He expects that proposals this year will be made to increase the federal abstinence-only funding. He also envisions bills on marriage and character education.

If the abstinence club at Stanford University is any indicator, though, young adults may prove to be a tougher sell than teenagers. Five years ago, a few students formed a club called "True Love Waits" in reaction to a freshman safe sex program they felt promoted a " '60s mentality." The organization attracted as many as 80 members and put together dorm talks on saving sex for marriage.

Last year, co-president Brendan Stuhan, 19, said he became frustrated by other students' challenges during the talks. "There are lots of people who want to make exceptions," he says. "'How far is OK?' 'What about cohabiting?' 'What if you plan to get married next week?' 'What if you're stranded on a desert island with no priest to perform the ceremony?' "

This year, membership in "True Love Waits" dwindled to six. The panel discussions were discontinued.

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

(Story from the August 11, 1999 Los Angeles Times)

 

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

California Democratic Party Mandate for Inclusiveness at Convention Leaves Out Bisexuals and Unmarried People

Democrats Set Demographic Goals

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Intent on projecting diversity, California Democrats have spelled out precisely how many gays, lesbians, disabled people and minorities should serve as delegates to the party's national convention.

State party officials sent a memo to 2,500 activists last week, laying out what they called goals for how the 432 delegates should look. In August 2000 the delegates will gather in Los Angeles to choose the Democratic presidential nominee, and the party is eager to showcase its diversity before a television audience of millions.

According to the memo, 26 percent of delegates should be Hispanic, 16 percent black, 10 percent disabled, 9 percent Asian-Pacific Islander, 5 percent gay, 5 percent lesbian and 1 percent Indian. Half should be men, and half women, the party said.

"California has changed, and the California Democratic Party has kept up with it," said
Bob Mulholland, a party spokesman who drafted the memo. "It's certainly a plus to have on national TV a delegation that looks like America."

Democratic National Committee rules require states to study and analyze the Democratic Party electorate and develop goals for their delegations that reflect what they find, DNC spokeswoman Jenny Backus said.

"The purpose of that is to try and ensure the people who are choosing our nominees and going to the national convention reflect the kind of citizens who are voting for us,"
she said.

California Democratic Party officials formulated their goals based on the state's population and voter exit polls, Mulholland said Tuesday.

The party's strong affirmative-action push follows a move by the state's top Democrat, Gov. Gray Davis, that struck a blow against such preferences.

Davis vetoed a bill last month that would have declared outreach programs for minorities and women permissible despite Proposition 209, a voter-approved ban on preferential treatment by government based on race or gender.

Mulholland said the party's affirmative action push was completely unrelated to the veto by Davis, who will be one of the convention delegates.

"We're a political party, and as we build our delegation, we ought to have the most diversified delegation," Mulholland said. "The year 2000 is a unique case -- we're going to get lots of TV coverage" at the nominating convention.

That image is important, because it will convey inclusiveness to voters watching the convention through the news media, he said.

Republicans derided the targets as tokenism.

The Republican Party has no such mandate for diversity, said Stuart DeVeaux, spokesman for the state GOP and a former Republican National Committee official.

"We are an inclusive party," DeVeaux said. "If you're a white male and you've done nothing wrong, you're discriminated against by the Democratic Party."

Replied Mulholland: "Our delegation of 432 will reflect almost every community in California, and that will bode well for candidates in fall elections. ... This will be day and night compared to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia."

Democrats select delegates in three ways.

Sixty are "superdelegates," made up of 30 DNC members, 28 congressional members, Davis and former DNC Chairman Chuck Manatt.

A total of 239 are elected in January caucus elections. The state party chairman chooses five more. And finally, those 239 and the superdelegates gather in April to choose 128 additional delegates.

The party emphasizes its goals most intensely during the last part of the process, Mulholland said.

He said he is optimistic the party can meet or exceed its targets. In 1996, when the goals were identical, the party achieved its target for blacks, Indians and gays, but fell short in the other categories. The "disabled" category did not exist before this year.

"We could be close in most, over in some" categories this year, Mulholland said. "Remember, some people might (fill) three or four categories."

(Story from the August 10, 1999 Las Vegas Sun)

Letter from AASP to Clint Riley, San Francisco Mayoral Candidate

Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of AASP, sent a letter today to Clint Riley. Riley is challenging San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown in the mayoral race. The primary will be held next year. Coleman asked Riley for his position on domestic partner benefits. Does he support gender-neutral dp benefits and protections or does he support such benefits for same-sex couples only as Carole Migden's bill (AB 26) would do?

Click here to see this letter dated August 10, 1999

 

Monday, August 9, 1999

AASP sends letter to Wisconsin Secretary of State

Thomas F. Coleman, AASP executive director, sent a letter today to Doug LaFollette, secretary of state of Wisconsin. Coleman commended Lafollette for filing a lawsuit against the state challenging discrimination against unmarried state workers by the state retirement system. The letter was sent in response to an article about the lawsuit published on August 4, 1999, in the Star Tribune.

Click here for AASP's letter to Mr. Lafollette
(The original article appears below.)

Star Tribune
August 4, 1999

State accused of discriminating against unmarried employees in death benefits

Statewire

MADISON, Wis. (AP) __ The state is being accused in a lawsuit of discriminating against unmarried employees by giving them lower death benefits.

When state employees die while working past retirement age, their spouses and dependent children receive full death benefits. But if the beneficiaries are friends, siblings, parents or domestic partners, they receive partial benefits.

Beneficiaries other than spouses or children receive only the employee' s contributions toward the benefit while the employer' s contributions revert to the state, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette and six University of Wisconsin_Madison employees.

Those employees include mathematics professor Anatole Beck, philosophy professor Claudia Card, communicative disorders professor Karen Carlson, information procurement consultant Robert Israel, Spanish professor Raymond Spoto and clerical worker Kristen Zehner.

The beneficiaries of more women than men receive partial benefits, according to the lawsuit.

Jason Beier, an attorney with Garvey & Stoddard, which filed the lawsuit, said the disparity in death benefits came about when the law was changed in 1964 as an outgrowth of a collective bargaining agreement.

He said Beck had tried to get the law changed before the lawsuit was filed but was not successful.

Beier said the lawsuit has been assigned to Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Callaway.

Julie Reneau, communications director for the Department of Employee Trust Funds, said the state had not been notified of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

To qualify for the benefit, an employee must be 55 except for protective services employees who qualify at 50, Reneau said.

Reneau said she could not estimate the cost if the law was changed to provide full benefits for all beneficiaries.

"We know how many people die each year between those ages," she said. "We know how many we have. What we don' t know is how many are married or have dependent children."

She said an actuary would have to research the issue before the cost could be determined.

The benefit plan has more than 400,000 members, Reneau said.

 

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