This page contains news for
the period Monday, December 06, 1999 through Sunday, December 12, 1999.
December 1999 >>
Friday, December 10, 1999
in Tennessee will consider more single parents for adoption
A story published today by ABC Newswire
reports that the State of Tennessee has decided to relax its adoption rules so more
children can find permanent homes.
A new initiative will allow the state to pay the Special Needs
Adoption Program or SNAP nine-thousand dollars for every child under 12 placed into
adoption. The state will also pay eleven-thousand dollars for children 12 and older.
Single parents will be considered more as will parents who have a fixed or low income.
Supreme Court rules that gay
couples can't get legally married in Hawaii
An article published today in the Honolulu
Advertiser and a release by the Associated Press both report that the historic eight-year
court bid to make Hawaii the first state to legalize same-sex marriages ended yesterday
when the Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously upheld state marriage laws.
The Advertiser story notes, however, that same-sex marriage
advocates believe that the question of whether unmarried same-sex couples are entitled to
the same benefits as married couples remains unresolved.
In an order filed yesterday, the justices said the lawsuit seeking
to legalize same-sex marriages was "moot" because the voters passed a
constitutional amendment last year authorizing state lawmakers to reserve marriages to
opposite-sex couples. The court concluded that the amendment had validated Hawaiis
The stories says that the court reversed Circuit Judge Kevin
Changs 1996 decision the first in the country in favor of three
same-sex couples who argued that the marriage laws violated the state constitutions
equal protection provisions.
According to the Advertiser, Deputy Attorney General Dorothy Sellers
said the high courts decision means "theres not going to be same-sex
marriages in Hawaii because this is the final decision by the Supreme Court, and the case
Dan Foley, a Honolulu attorney who represented the three same-sex
couples who were plaintiffs in the case said that yesterdays decision leaves many
"But it is clear that the case for same-sex marriage in Hawaii
is over," Foley said. "My reading of the ruling is that except for a marriage
license, it is still unconstitutional in Hawaii to deny a right or a benefit to a same-sex
couple if mixed sex couples receive those rights or benefits.
"Every time a same-sex couple is denied a right or benefit
granted to a married couple there will be a lawsuit," Foley said.
Foley said he may file to ask the high court to clarify portions of
its ruling, but has no plans to file an appeal in federal court.
Chief Justice Ronald Moon and associate justices Steven Levinson and
Paula Nakayama and substitute justice James Burns signed the four-page decision. Associate
Justice Mario Ramil agreed in a concurring opinion.
Levinson authored the landmark 1993 high court ruling that triggered
bitter debates from Hawaiis Capitol all the way to Congress and across the country.
Levinson wrote that a same-sex marriage ban violates the Hawaii
constitutions equal rights protections by denying marriage based on gender and must
be declared void unless the state can justify it with a "compelling state
interest." The court sent the case back for trial on that issue.
That led to the nonjury trial before Judge Chang during which the
state argued that the ban is justified for the sake of children who would be better off
raised by their biological parents.
But Chang ruled that the state didnt prove its case and that
gay men and lesbians can be fit parents.
He ruled that the state could not withhold a marriage license to the
three same-sex couples, but held off enforcement of his decision pending the Supreme
The Advertiser observed that same-sex marriage supporters likened
Changs decision with the landmark case that led to the U.S. Supreme Courts
1954 decision that outlawed segregation.
But the Hawaii case also resulted in other states passing laws
refusing to recognize gay marriages and in Congress passing a federal law that allows
states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states.
Hawaiis case also attracted a range of same-sex marriage
proponents and opponents who submitted legal briefs to the high court.
But the most significant development turned out to be the adoption
of the constitutional amendment in the 1998 general election, following an expensive and
intense campaign by both sides over same-sex marriages.
The amendment passed by more than a 2-to-1 margin 285,000
votes in favor and 127,000 against.
"The passage of the marriage amendment placed (Hawaii laws
banning same-sex marriages) on new footing," the high courts majority said
yesterday. "The new marriage amendment validated (the laws) by taking the statute out
of the ambit of the equal protection clause of the Hawaii Constitution.... Accordingly,
whether or not in the past it was violative of the equal protection clause
law) no longer is."
Foley saw at least one reason for optimism for his clients
position in that four justices defended the courts 1993 decision.
"The law of the land, as I read it, is that
same-sex couples are not entitled to a marriage license, but if they are denied a right or
a benefit granted to married couples, the state has to demonstrate a very compelling
reason to do so," Foley said.
Social security report
predicts that older never-married women will be at high risk for poverty
A story published today
in Business Week notes that as Americans are living longer, Social Security's financial
imbalances are likely to worsen along with the gains in life expectancy, especially for
women and even more so for women who have never married.
That's the striking conclusion of a recent report from the Social
Security Advisory Board, a blue-chip panel of economists, demographers, and actuaries that
counsels the Social Security Administration.
The reason lies in the interaction of demographics, culture, and
social change with the Social Security system. Social Security is the main lifetime income
benefit for many people. And women tend to live longer than men. The Census Bureau's
current intermediate forecast predicts that women who reach the age of 65 in 2000, 2010,
and 2020 will live to be 84.5, 85, and 86.2 years of age, respectively. For men, the
comparable figures are 80.9, 81.8, and 83.5 years of age.
The story observes that Social Security benefits depend on the 35
highest years of earnings. But women are the nation's primary caregivers, taking time out
from market-based work to care for children, aging parents, relatives, and disabled
husbands. So there will be years when many women have zero earnings, and they will
continue to have fewer years of earnings and lower overall earnings than men.
What's more, the story says, is that women are increasingly likely
to be unmarried. For instance, the percentage of women currently divorced has risen from
2.54 in 1970 to 8.16 in 1997.
Social Security's complex payout rules are based on the model of the
traditional one-earner family, where dad works and mom stays at home. But an
Ozzie-and-Harriet family is far less common today than when the Social Security system was
put in place several decades ago. The nation's primary safety net for the elderly hasn't
adjusted to a world of two-income couples, let alone a large population of elderly
divorced and never-married women.
Although many women are better off today than in previous eras,
despite the dramatic labor-market improvements, the specter of poverty remains all too
real. The story says that in 1991, 12% of elderly women lived below the poverty line.
After taking into account projected changes in women's earnings, pensions, and marital
status, the poverty rate of older women receiving Social Security benefits in 2020 could
still be 12%, says Timothy Smeeding, professor of public policy at Syracuse University.
What will shift is the mix of women who are at greater risk of
falling into poverty. The rate will drop slightly for married women. It will decline for
divorced and widowed women, too, although it will stay at a high level. But the poverty
rate among never-married women will soar. "These results suggest that many of
tomorrow's female Social Security recipients will be no better off than today's, and that
poverty and insecurity will be as much a problem of older women in 2020 as in 1991 or
1999," Smeeding notes in Social Security Reform: Improving Benefit Adequacy and
Economic Security for Women.
The story says that Smeeding offers some partial solutions. One is
directed solely at divorced men and women. Under current Social Security rules, a woman
who divorces her employed husband before 10 years of marriage (actually, it's 9 years, 11
months, and 27 days of marriage for actuarial purposes) doesn't share in her spouse's
Social Security benefits. The same is true for men. Smeeding recommends instituting
earnings or benefits sharing for the early marriage years as well. Eugene Stuerle, senior
fellow at the Urban Institute, agrees: "Such a system would approximately prorate
benefits of either spouse according to the share of a normal working life that they spent
Policymakers should at least try to take into account changing
family circumstances. "We may soon undertake a significant reform of Social Security,
one that could shift around trillions of dollars in future benefits, yet these family
issues have been given little consideration in the debate to date," the Urban
Institute's Stuerle testified before Congress earlier this year. Women are more dependent
than men on their Social Security dollars in their golden years, and they are
disproportionately at risk of living the twilight years in poverty.
The story concludes by saying that the disturbing disparity in
economic security between elderly men and aging women is one of the most pressing public
policy issues facing the Social Security system. It should be addressed now, while we
still have time.
Thursday, December 09, 1999
to pay $650,000 to settle marital status discrimination complaint
A story published today by Reuters reports
that Ford Credit, the financing subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., has agreed to pay $650,000
to settle allegations it treated unmarried joint applicants for auto loans differently
from married couples, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Thursday.
The FTC said Ford Credit had violated a U.S. fair lending law during
the period between May 1994 and August 1995 by failing to combine the incomes of unmarried
joint auto loan applicants, as it did with married applicants.
As a result, many unmarried joint applicants were offered credit on
less favorable terms than their married counterparts, the FTC said. The settlement will be
used to compensate these couples.
"Millions of consumers use credit and the Equal Credit
Opportunity Act guarantees that they are given an equal chance to get it," Jodie
Bernstein, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, said in a statement.
"While lenders can use a variety of factors to compute a
consumer's credit-worthiness, marital status isn't one of them. This settlement tells
lenders and would-be borrowers that credit discrimination won't be tolerated."
The settlements is one of the largest ever obtained by the FTC under
the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which bars discrimination against credit applicants on
the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or marital status.
In May this year, Franklin Acceptance Corporation, a
Philadelphia-based finance company, paid a $800,000 civil penalty for similar alleged
violations against unmarried couples.
Wednesday, December 08, 1999
General defends law prohibiting adoption by unmarried adults who live together
A story published today in the Salt Lake
Tribune reports that the the Utah Attorney General's office has asked a state judge to
uphold a policy that bans gay and unwed heterosexual couples from adopting foster
The Attorney General's brief claims that the policy-making board for
the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) was well within the law when it passed
the ban last January. The board passed the rule despite strong opposition from
child-advocacy and civil-rights groups, as well as significant dissension within the
Department of Human Services, the parent agency of DCFS.
The rule prohibits adoptions by adults who are living together but
are not related by either marriage or blood. That would include gay and lesbian unions or
couples living together in common-law relationships.
Among the arguments in the 30-page brief is that children raised by
gay parents stand a greater risk of becoming homosexual and "mimicking the risky
behavior of their adoptive parents.''
Adoptions by unmarried adults still are permitted under DCFS rules,
but the motion outlines those risks as well: "Even after taking into account such
factors as low income, the research shows that 'children growing up in single parent
households are at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of behavioral and educations
(sic) problems, including ... smoking, drinking, early and frequent sexual experience and
in extreme cases, drugs, suicide, vandalism, violence, criminal behavior.'''
The story also notes that the state board is currently considering
similar action that would ban gays and unmarried adults from becoming foster parents. A
decision on that proposal will be made next month.
New study says that marriage
makes men happier
An article published today in the Christian
Science Monitor reports that a new study has been released which concludes that married
men are happier than bachelors.
The study was conducted by Steven L. Nock, a University of Virginia
sociology professor. His new book, published by Oxford University Press, is entitled
"Marriage in Men's Lives." The book is based on yearly interviews with 6,000 men
over the past 20 years.
From the interviews, Nock concluded that married men are more
successful, generous, and concerned about others than their bachelor counterparts.
According to the study, they are also more mature and productive.
Casual sex is losing its
appeal for many youth
A story published today in the Bergen Record
reports that a generation after the sexual revolution dazzled young people with the
promise of freedom and excitement, the culture of liberation has lost some of its luster.
Not only has the level of sexual activity among unmarried young people decreased in the
past decade, but attitudes have shifted as well.
The story notes several findings from large-scale studies conducted
by the University of Chicago, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the Urban
* The proportion of adolescent males who approved of premarital sex
when a couple does not plan to marry increased from 55 percent in 1979 to 80 percent in
1988. By 1995, it had dropped to 71 percent.
- A record low 40 percent of college freshman agree that "if two
people really like each other, it's all right for them to have sex even if they've known
each other for a very short time." That's down from 52 percent in 1987.
- The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds who frown on sex before
marriage, calling it "always" or "almost always" wrong, has jumped
from 12.5% in 1972, to 25% in recent years.
- The proportion of 17- to 19-year-old males who reported they were
still virgins increased from 24 percent in 1988 to 32 percent in 1995.
The story says that market researchers are calling the trend
"neo-traditionalism." They predict that patterns of dating, marriage, and
child-rearing among today's young adults may turn out to be more like those of their
grandparents than of their parents -- even as they reject traditional gender roles and are
more open to gay and interracial relationships than their predecessors.
Said one observer, "Picture Eisenhower but with a pierced
But to some, the predictions of a broad culture shift seem
far-fetched. True, the level of sexual activity among 15- to 19-year-olds has eased, but
it's still well above what it was before the "free love" culture of the 1960s
Forty percent of 10 girls still get pregnant at least once before
they turn 20. And although premarital sex may be less acceptable than it was a decade ago,
the number of cohabiting couples under age 25 doubled from 1980 to 1996.