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U.S. News Archive
October 04 - October 10, 1999





This page contains news for the period Monday, October 04, 1999 through Sunday, October 10, 1999.





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Sunday, October 10, 1999

Lack of photo ID often thwarts process of establishing paternity

According to a story published today in the Jackson Citizen Patriot, fewer than 56 percent of the babies born at Foote Hospital to unmarried parents last year went home with a legally recognized father. Foote Hospital is located in Jackson, Michigan.

Camie Wollet, an administrative assistant who oversees the hospital's efforts to determine paternity, estimated that number would be as high as 80 percent if only more unmarried dads fathers had picture identification.

"They say they are stolen or they don't have them with them," she told the newspaper. "I don't know if they don't have it or if they just say they don't because they're scared to sign the paper."

Hospital records show that in n 1998, about 41 percent of the babies born at Foote were born to unmarried parents.

When an unmarried woman gives birth, the hospital gives the father an option of filling out a paternity form, stating that both he and the mother are in agreement that he is the baby's father.

"The problem with the younger crowds is that not all gentleman have a picture ID," Wollet told the paper. She is a notary public who serves as witness and notarizes the form acknowledging paternity.

However, Wollet tells moms not to panic if the dad does not have photo identification at the hospital. Paternity can be done up until the child's third birthday at the Family Independence Agency.


Friday, October 8, 1999

Catholic Cardinal Insists Single People Remain Chaste Until Marriage

An article published today in the Chicago Tribune reports that Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago set a serious tone in his speech opening the 6th annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian & Gay Ministries.

George told the gathering that homosexuals are welcome in the church but that all unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, must remain chaste until marriage. That poses a Catch-22 for gays and lesbians since the church does not recognize homosexual unions.

"What I said is not always easy," George said at the Arlington Park Hilton.

Washington State Judge Suspended for Treatment of Unmarried Defendants

An Associated Press story published today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the Supreme Court of Washington has suspended a Pierce County judge for six months without pay for overstepping his authority, violating the state constitution and bullying defendants.

The court's ruling said that Municipal Court Judge A. Eugene Hammermaster demonstrated "a pattern of intimidating and offensive behavior" and "ignorance or disregard of basic legal principles."

The suspension resulted from several misdeeds by the judge, including making threats to unmarried men that he would imprison them unless they stopped living with their girlfriends.

Although unmarried cohabitation formerly was a crime in Washington, that law was repealed many years ago. As a result, there was no legal basis for the judge's attempt to regulate the living arrangements of male defendants.

International Group Urges More Access to Information and Contraception

Advocates for Youth issued the following press release today on U.S. Newswire. The group is an international, nonprofit organization that creates programs and supports policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Press Release:

Citing the fact that of the 6 billion people in the world, more than 1 billion are age 15-24, Advocates for Youth President James Wagoner called on U.S. and global policy-makers to recognize the importance of young people, "When it comes to the quality of life on this planet, a billion young people are in the driver's seat."

"This is the largest generation of youth in the world's history. The decisions young people make now regarding their sexual and reproductive health -- the timing and size of their families -- will be the single most important factor on world population over the next century," said Wagoner. At the current rate, global population will reach 12 billion in less than 75 years.

"With the vast majority of adolescents worldwide becoming sexually active before the age of 20 (80 percent in the U.S.); with 15 million teen births each year (more than a half million in the U.S.); and half of all new HIV infections occurring in young people under the age of 25 (both globally and in the U.S.); we need realistic policies that protect young people's health and lives," concluded Wagoner.

Wagoner called on policy-makers, both domestic and international, to follow the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) to increase sexuality education at all school levels, to provide confidential access to contraception for all sexually active adolescents and to pursue rigorous public health strategies to reduce HIV/AIDS.

Additionally, Wagoner called on U.S. policy-makers to honor America's commitment to international family planning and to support the recent White House $100 million initiative on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.


Sexual Activity

Global: Worldwide, the majority of men and women, married and unmarried, become sexually active during adolescence. (The Second Decade: Improving Adolescent Health and Development, Geneva: World Health Organizations, 1998)
U.S.: By age 20, 84 percent of all U.S. males and 72 percent of all U.S. females have had sexual intercourse. Most young people begin having sex in their mid-to-late teens. (Changes in Sexual Behavior and Condom Use Among Teenaged Males: 1998 to 1995, American Journal of Public Health, 88, June 1998)

Teen Pregnancy

Global: Worldwide, each year approximately 15 million children are born to adolescent women (married and unmarried), accounting for 11 percent of all births. (Issues in Briefs: Risks and Realities of Early Childbearing Worldwide, New York: AGI, 1997)
U.S.: Each year, almost 1 million American teens -- 10 percent of all women aged 15-19 and 19 percent of those who have had sexual intercourse -- become pregnant. (Teenage pregnancy: Overall Trends and State-by-state Information, New York: AGI, 1999)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Global: Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are increasingly common among young people. Globally, each year 1 of every 20 adolescents gets a STD. (The Second Decade)
U.S.: In the United States, every year 3 million teens -- about 1 in 4 sexually experienced teens -- acquire an STD. (Sex and America's Teenagers, New York: AGI, 1994.)

HIV Infections

Global: Worldwide, half of all new HIV infections -- 7,000 new infections a day -- are among young people aged 15-24. (Into a New World, Washington, D.C.: AGI, 1998)
Global: Five young people in the world will contract HIV/AIDS every minute of every day. This means 2.63 million young people every year. (AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS, December 1998)
U.S.: One-half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur in young people under the age of 25 and one-quarter of new infections occur among people between the ages of 13 and 21. (Young People at Risk: HIV/AIDS Among America's Youth, Centers for Disease Control, October 1998)
U.S.: Two young people in the United States are infected with HIV every hour of every day. (Youth and HIV/AIDS: An American Agenda, Office of National AIDS Policy, 1996)


Thursday, October 7, 1999

Two-thirds of sexually active, unmarried women at risk of exposure to sexual diseases

An article published today in the San Francisco chronicle reports that men who secretly sleep around are putting 3.5 million unsuspecting American women at risk of contracting the AIDS virus or other sexually transmitted diseases.

The conclusion is based on a new study released by the New York-based Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Lawrence Finer, senior research associate at the institute and co-author of the new study, noted that couples in which the man has multiple partners are no more likely to use condoms than are strictly monogamous couples. Few men, he added, are apt to suggest using protection with their main partners after beginning a secret encounter.

Based on surveys taken between 1988 and 1996, the study estimated that at least 17 million U.S. women -- or a third of all sexually active females between the ages of 18 and 44 -- are at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), through multiple partners.

The survey found a substantial discrepancy between what men say about their promiscuity and what women believe about their male partner's activities. Some 24 percent of the men reported having had more than one partner during the past year, far higher than the 15 percent estimate from women asked about their partner.

The difference between the two findings led to the new estimate of 3.5 million sexually active women unknowingly at risk of possible exposure to a sexually transmitted disease. Whether this risk actually leads to infection was not answered in the Guttmacher study.

The survey showed that indirect risks tend to be highest for younger, lower-income minority women, particularly divorced women or women who have never been married.

Formerly married women had odds seven times higher than married women of being at risk, while the potential for indirect exposure was nearly twice as high among women in their late teens than among women in their 40s.

The bottom line was that about two-thirds of sexually active, unmarried women and teens are at risk of exposure through multiple sex partners.

Unwed Birthrate Up Slightly in United States

A story published today in the Washington Post reports that the proportion of births to unmarried women rose slightly between 1997 and 1998, from 32.4 percent to 32.8 percent nationwide on average.

The finding was released by the latest federal study of birth and death statistics conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.


Monday, October 4, 1999

U.S. Supreme Court to rule on visitation rights for grandparents

An article published today in the Los Angeles Times listed several important cases on the docket of the Supreme Court during its new term which begins today.

One of the cases which could affect unmarried parents is Troxel vs. Granville, 99-138).  The court will answer the following question: Do grandparents have a right to visit their grandchildren when this is in the child's best interest? The Washington Supreme Court said no, on the theory that parents have sole right to control their children.

All 50 states have laws which give judges discretion in a divorce proceeding to order a parent to allow a third party (such as a grandparent) to visit the child involved in the court proceeding. Some courts have ordered the biological parent to allow his or her former unmarried partner to have visitation with the child they were once raising together, even though the unmarried partner is not the child's biological parent.

As a result, the grandparent visitation case before the Supreme Court has major implications for domestic partners when one partner is the biological parent of the child and the other partner is a "step parent" or "de facto" parent so to speak. The case also has implications for grandparents and other relatives who would like to continue to visit with a child after the child's parent's divorce.

The court will render its decision by next June.

Prenuptial guide available

A story published today in the Jacksonville Times-Union reports that Debt Counselors of America is offering a guide to prenuptial agreements for unmarried couples who do not plan to marry any time soon.

The non-profit counseling organization has a new publication to help couples living together salvage their individual property if the relationship ends up falling apart.

Entitled ''Living Together: A Financial Contract for Unmarried Couples,'' the publication covers property owned before living together; property inherited or given during the relationship; property bought during the relationship; and expenses during the relationship.

The booklet costs $2.50 and is available over the Internet from www.GetOutofDebt.org or for $5 by mail from DCA Publications, P.O. Box 8587, Gaithersburg, Md., 20898-8587.

Rhode Island high court holds an historic hearing

Rubano v. Dicenzo is a precedent-setting case involving two lesbians battling over visitation rights involving Brian, a seven-year-old boy who was five when the couple separated. Concetta Dicenzo, the birth mother, and Maureen Rubano, her partner at the time, parented Brian from birth until their separation. According to attorneys, the child calls Rubano his "heart mother." 1997.

Dicenzo and Rubano began living together in July 1987 and started planning to rear a child in 1989. Brian was born December 15, l991. The parents first separated in1995, reconciled, then split permanently in March1996. After the separation, Rubano continued to care for the child during the day. In July1996, Dicenzo made different arrangements for day care and would not allow Rubano to pick him up. By fall, Brian was allowed to visit Rubano only every other weekend. Rubano petitioned the Rhode Island Family Court for visitation rights when Dicenzo reneged on a consent agreement for visitation made in May 1997.

When Rubano appeared in Family Court last year to request enforcement of the consent agreement, Jeremiah held Dicenzo in contempt of court and ordered her incarcerated at the state prison until she agreed to comply. She did so that night after a last minute appeal to the state Supreme Court, which upheld his decision. Because Rubano didn't have a relationship with the child birth, Jeremiah asked the Supreme Court for a ruling.

When the Rhode Island General Assembly created the Family Court in 1961, it tried to cover all circumstances which the court might need to decide. At the time, gays and lesbians as life partners with children were rare or non-existent, so the statute does not cover such relationships.

GLAD authored and submitted to the Supreme Court an amici curiae, or friends of the court, brief supporting Rubano's rights to visitation. Joining the brief were the Rhode Island Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Youth Pride, Rhode Island Jewish Family Service, Children's Friends and Services (the nation's oldest child welfare organization), the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Northern Rhode Island YMCA.

"The definition of family includes supportive families of intention and function, families of biology and also of commitment," Mary Bonauto, civil rights director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), told Bay Windows. "We take the position that the child should continue his relations with both mothers."

Other states have included such relationships in court rulings. "Sometimes the courts do decide against the birth parent," Bonauto said. "Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Jersey courts have done so, but New York, California and Florida have not. These are devastating, heartbreaking moments because the legal system doesn't always recognize actual parent-child relationships as family relationships."

On June 29, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a lesbian who is the non-biological parent should have visitation rights and granted her legal standing to seek custody of her then four-year-old son.

Rubano's attorneys, law and life partners Cynthia Collins and Cherrie Perkins, told Bay Windows the courts should rule in the best interests of the child because Brian recognizes their client as his "heart mother." The was the crux of Collins's oral argument before the Supreme Court.

Maureen DiChristofaro, an attorney whom the Family Court appointed guardian ad litem to represent the views of the child, recommended that an ongoing relationship with Rubano was critical to his development, Collins said. In her view, DiChristofaro's report was the most compelling information.

Rosina Hunt, Dicenzo's attorney, told Bay Windows the state Legislature is the proper government body to address the issue, as well as that of same-gender marriage. "[My client] is married now but [the union] is not recognized by the state." Hunt sees a precedent in Titchenal v. Dexter, a case decided by the Vermont Supreme Court. "There, the justices ruled that the courts may exert equitable powers on common law, the Constitution and laws enacted by the Legislature but they cannot make new rights. Only lawmakers can do that."

Hunt disagrees that Rubano should be recognized as a family member: "We are saying that it is a fairness issue. My client did not consider them a family. She refused to allow [Rubano] to sign the child's birth certificate. [Rubano] brought her to a lawyer to sign adoption and parenting document. My client refused. And now that there is some animosity, [Rubano] is trying to inject herself into their lives." Hunt contended the couple maintained separate finances and that Rubano had her own house and never put Dicenzo's name on the deed.

"You can stretch the concept of family very thin," she added. "When the child was only two and a half years old, my client moved to a separate apartment for financial reasons. They were not lovers any more. The other side says they were and that they were merely separated."

In her Supreme Court oral argument, Hunt said the state Legislature is the proper venue for deciding the rights of unmarried and separated parents. She said the Legislature should enact a special statute.

Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg asked Hunt why she did not mention Brian in her argument. "What are his best interests?" she asked.

Chief Justice Joseph Weisberger focused on the constitutionality of court versus legislative action and how the courts are going to respect parental autonomy. "Why would this not encompass unmarried couples?" Weisberger said, inferring that the case already was included in the jurisdictional statute.


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