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U.S. News Archive
August 23 - August 31, 1999





This page contains news for the period Sunday, August 23, 1999 through Tuesday, August 31, 1999.



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Monday, August 30, 1999

In today's tax world, it pays to be married

Despite all the fuss about the "marriage penalty" where two working people may pay more in taxes as a married couple than they would as two singles, the truth is, this only applies to a portion of married taxpayers. In general, singles pay more taxes than married couples on the same income. Congress has a $792 billion tax-cut proposal that could worsen the situation for single people.

Generation X Homes In

The August 1999 issue of Demographics Magazine discusses the home buying trends of the most recent generation of young adults. In 1998, the homeownership rate among unmarried Gen X households, for example, was 23.2 percent, according to the Census Bureau. The rates of their boomer counterparts, on the other hand, have never hit higher than 21.4 percent.

The article says that more than half of all Xers age 30 to 31 and 36 percent of those 25 to 29 already own their own homes. Marriage is not a prerequisite to homeownership for Gen X. Some 18.4 percent of single female householders age 25 to 29 own their own homes, according to the Census Bureau -- a jump of 4 full percentage points over the last ten years. For single males in the same age group, the homeownership rate increased more than 6 percentage points, to 39.1 percent.


Saturday, August 28, 1999

Unmarried Couples Out as Foster Parents in Utah

According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah has adopted a formal policy prohibiting unmarried couples from being foster parents. In fact, the new policy is so broad that it prohibits placing a foster child in a home if the foster parent also has any unrelated adult living there.

The new rules were adopted in a 5-to-2 vote by the board of trustees of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

Bans of this nature have been opposed by the Child Welfare League of America, the American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Questions were raised -- but not answered -- at the board’s meeting. How, for example, would the policy apply to couples in common-law marriages (together more than seven years)? No one was able to offer a definitive answer. What of a case in which a renter, unrelated by blood, lives in the home of a foster or adoptive parent? Or, even closer to home, what if that renter is a Mormon missionary? Would that living arrangement violate the new policy if the homeowners wanted to take in foster children?

"When I was on a Mormon mission I rented a room in a private home," one commissioner said. "You can see where we run into complicating factors."

The married-only policy is so strongly opposed by the Child Welfare League that the association recently sent DCFS Director Ken Patterson a letter asking its endorsement be removed from the agency’s policy manual. The board swiftly accommodated that request, voting to remove the phrase that refers to DCFS policy as "in accordance with the standards of the Child Welfare League of America."

Housing Suit Filed Against Fargo Landlord Who Won't Rent to Unmarried Couples

According to a report today in The Forum, the Fair Housing Council of North Dakota has filed a lawsuit against a Fargo couple who own rental property, accusing them of discriminating against unmarried couples who live together.

The landlords own seven rental houses and duplexes in north Fargo and won’t rent to unmarried couples, according to the lawsuit filed in Cass County District Court by the Bismarck-based nonprofit organization.

The landlords said Friday they rent to single people, but not to unmarried couples. They claimed that rejecting unmarried couples as tenants is justified because of a state criminal law that prohibits cohabitation.

Bismarck lawyer Edwin Dyer III, who is representing the housing group, said the cohabitation law Peterson cites prohibits unmarried couples who live together from representing themselves as a married couple. The housing council contends the law doesn’t prohibit cohabitation in and of itself, and its lawsuit against the landlords will resolve the legal dispute, Dyer said.

The housing council received four complaints from Fargo renters since 1997 who said these landlords would not rent to unmarried couples.

The North Dakota Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on marital status, according to the housing council.

The plaintiffs ask for compensation, punitive damages and attorney fees, along with an injunction ordering the landlords to stop any rental practices found to be illegal.


Thursday, August 26, 1999

LA Considers Proposal to Make City Contractors Offer DP Benefits

According to a report in Frontiers News Magazine, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg has introduced a motion to expand the city contractor nondiscrimination law to include "domestic partnerships."

The measure would require that all companies doing more than $5,000 worth of business with the city offer their unmarried employees domestic partners benefits comparable to those they offer to married spouses.

The proposal, which would be patterned after San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance and would apply to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, was heard in a council committee on Aug. 16. At the meeting, Goldberg and Councilman Mike Feuer directed city staff to review a report on the first two years of the San Francisco policy and return in September with a detailed proposal for Los Angeles.

To qualify under Goldberg’s preliminary proposal, domestic partners would have to be registered with Los Angeles county.

In the current benefits program for city employees, only about 3 percent of Los Angeles city workers, the majority of whom are heterosexual, take advantage of the benefits. The city’s cost for benefits has increased less than 1.5 percent since the policy began.

Court upholds rule requiring unmarried or divorced parents to pay for child’s college education

According to an Associated Press story, the Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a law allowing judges to require unmarried or divorced parents to pay child support and educational expenses for their children until they graduate from college or turn 22.

A divorced father, Steven Snodgrass, appealed a circuit court ruling by arguing that the law requiring child support awards for college expenses violates state and federal equal protection laws. Snodgrass argued that it was unfair to require unmarried, divorced or legally separated parents to pay educational costs when married couples do not have the same obligation. The court rejected his argument, stating there was "no authority," for the father’s claim. The court accepted the mother’s argument that the state has a legitimate interest in securing higher education opportunities for children of broken homes."

Cohabitation issue ends for victims

Victim Compensation Law is Changed

Living together unmarried is a misdemeanor in North Carolina, but it no longer disqualifies anyone from obtaining money from the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Commission.

Under a new law, the commission will not automatically deny applications for awards from victims or their relatives solely because the victims lived out of wedlock with the people who committed the crime.

In more than 100 cases since 1994, the commission rejected claims for awards from victims whose only crime was living with the people who assaulted, robbed or even murdered them. It is a crime in North Carolina for a man and woman to live as husband and wife without a marriage license. That law does not apply to same-sex couples. (News-Observer, Aug. 26, 1999)


Tuesday, August 24, 1999

A Benefit Built for Two: Several Assumptions About Domestic Partner Benefits Are Proving False

An excellent article in the August issue of Human Resource Magazine discusses various issues about domestic partnership benefits: how and why they began, facts are proving the fears of employers to be false, cost, definitions, and industry trends. There are also several side-bar articles which discuss legal and legislative updates and summaries of news articles.

Unmarried bliss can be just as rewarding, research shows

By Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller

Our fulfilling lives were interrupted by a shrill warning from Heritage Foundation intern Stacey Felzenberg. In her column Wednesday about marriage, she says we’re making a big mistake ("Why Generation X is beginning to embrace marriage").

Because we’ve chosen not to get married, she predicts we’re going to be poor, sickly and unhappy.

Way back when she was a college freshman, Felzenberg says that like us, she didn’t want to get married. But now -- two? three? years later -- with a superficial review of the research under her belt and a superior smirk on her face, Felzenberg can’t wait for her day at the altar.

She points to research that says married people are healthier than unmarried ones, and those who’ve tied the knot make more money than those who don’t.

It’s clear Felzenberg needs to put in some more hours in the library. The truth is, the research about marital status paints a more complex story than the one Felzenberg has sketched.

She seems to have missed the article by Catherine Ross of Ohio State University, who studied 2,031 adults and found it is living with a partner -- not necessarily being married to that partner -- that results in higher levels of well-being.

In fact, Ross found unmarried couples report higher levels of emotional support than married couples.

Maybe Felzenberg was absent the day the professor talked about the similar Dutch study that looked at 18,000 adults and found that living with another person is just as good for your health as marriage is.

Perhaps the Heritage Foundation doesn’t subscribe to the American Sociological Review. If it did, Felzenberg might have read about how married men contribute less time to housework than unmarried men who live with their partners. Of course, if Felzenberg simply enjoys doing housework, she need not be concerned.

She even concludes that not getting married could kill her faster than smoking. Excuse us? Last we heard, the Centers for Disease Control said smoking causes more than 419,900 deaths each year in the United States, making it the leading preventable cause of death.

We haven’t read a single obituary that lists "unmarried" as the cause of death. If Felzenberg wants to live to a healthy old age, kicking her tobacco habit will provide much better insurance than slipping on a wedding band.

Felzenberg even seems to be oblivious to her own privilege in asking the question, "Should I get married?" It is downright arrogant to wave the marriage banner at a time when millions of Americans are not legally allowed to marry their partners. Same-sex marriage is not legal in any state in the country.

Felzenberg presents a one-size-fits-all prescription for relationship and family life. The fact is, one size does not fit all.

Some people love living alone, while others thrive in big families. Some are gifted bedtime story readers and boo-boo kissers, while others adore the freedom of child-free living. Some women can’t wait to become Mrs. Somebody, while others cringe at the thought.

Trying to push everyone into the marriage box is an old tactic. Patriarchy was one very effective way to do it: Women didn't have much choice about getting married when they couldn’t work to support themselves.

Some religions added their voice to the cause by labeling unmarried relationships sinful. More recently, flawed social science research has been put to the same use in an attempt to convince people that marriage is scientifically advisable.

Felzenberg undoubtedly wants to help people to lead better lives. She needs a strategy more sophisticated than trying to convince everyone to get married, however.

Instead, she might try working toward creating a society that supports and validates the diverse kinds of relationships and families that exist today.

Until then, she’d better head back to the books.

Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller are the founders of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a national organization for unmarried people.

Arizona Daily Star
Tuesday, 24 August 1999


Monday, August 23, 1999

National Survey Shows Most Adults Say Unmarried Cohabitation is Okay

According to a Business Wire story released on August 23, 1999, by Business Wire, most adults believe that unmarried cohabitation is acceptable. More men than women tend to support living together outside of marriage. Young adults overwhelmingly find that cohabitation is an acceptable way to live.

The "Marriage Survey" was a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults. It was conducted in July 1999 by TNS Intersearch, the U.S. headquarters of the UK-based Taylor Nelson Sofres group.

Half of study respondents agreed that it’s okay for a man and a woman to live together outside of marriage. But, men were far more supportive of this idea than women (60% of men agreed with this statement versus 45% of women. Acceptance of the idea also declined greatly with age (73% among 18-34-year-old versus 19% among those 65 and older.)

Another issue examined by the survey involved unmarried parenting. Most Americans (67%) frown on this lifestyle choice.

More information on the Marriage Survey is available from TNS Intersearch by calling Howard Barich, Sr. Vice President Marketing, at (914) 684-6100 or e-mailing him at howard.barich@intersearch.tnsofres.com.

TNS Intersearch, founded in 1960, is a full-service international survey firm with 365 full-time employees and is the seventh largest custom market research company in the U.S. The company is headquartered in Horsham, PA and has client service offices in major cities throughout the U.S.

An executive summary of the complete survey results is available upon request.

Worker Sues Religious Day Care Center

Connie Rose Buels filed a complaint against a Pentecostal day care center in Benton Harbor, Michigan after she was fired when her employer learned that she was living with her fiancÚ.

Michigan’s civil rights law prohibits marital status discrimination and the state Supreme Court recently ruled that unmarried couples are protected by the statute. The Attorney General’s office has sided with Buels, demanding that the employer pay her for lost wages, mental and physical anguish and attorney fees.

The case is scheduled to be heard in October by a referee, who will forward a recommendation to the eight_member Michigan Civil Rights Commission. (Detroit Free Press, August 23, 1999.)


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