This page contains news for
the period Monday, February 14, 2000 through Sunday, February 20, 2000.
February 2000 >>
Wednesday, February 16, 2000
Virginia may lighten sodomy
A story published today in the Advocate
reports that a Virginia house of delegates committee on Sunday endorsed a proposal that
would make oral sex between consenting adults a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The bill
now goes to the full house.
Democratic delegate L. Karen Darner says she has tried several times
to repeal the current law, which makes oral sex punishable by up to five years in prison
and a loss of voting rights. If the proposal is passed, those convicted of violating the
oral sex ban will face a fine of up to $250.
"My feeling is, I would still like to have [oral sex]
decriminalized, but this is at least a recognition that the current law is
outrageous," Darner said. A Virginia appeals court agreed in December to review the
constitutionality of the states sodomy law.
Utah may strengthen grandparent
The Utah Senate appears likely to pass a bill
making it easier for grandparents to obtain court-ordered visitation rights of
grandchildren over the objection of parents.
Current law contains a presumption that if parents deny child
visitation to grandparents, the decision is "reasonable." Grandparents can have
a court override that decision, but only if they prove it is in the best interests of the
children and they are fit to have such contact.
Under SB 166, the parental presumption would remain in state law,
but only for "intact families," where both natural or adoptive parents reside
with the children. SB 166, which eliminates the presumption for other parents, passed on a
A constitutional note attached to the bill by the Legislature's own
attorneys warn that the issue of grandparents' visitation rights is in flux. The U.S.
Supreme Court last month heard arguments on a law from Washington state and has yet to
render an opinion.
Virginia Legislature says
"no" to convenant marriages
A story published today in the Virginia Pilot
reports that the Virginia House of Delegates late Monday night killed a bill to authorize
so-called "covenant marriages'' in Virginia.
Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, a Virginia Beach Republican, has
sponsored the measure for the last three years, calling it "a very modest reform'' to
combat an escalating divorce rate.
Under HB1534, couples could voluntarily agree to a covenant
marriage, requiring eight hours of marriage counseling prior to their wedding, agreement
to an oath stating that marriage is a "lifelong commitment,'' and eight hours of
counseling before filing for divorce.
Some lawmakers argued the bill would increase the number of
fault-based divorces, which are typically harder on children. Under the bill, covenant
marriage partners with children would have to wait two years before a no-fault divorce
could become final, instead of one year for other marriages.
The Virginia Bar Association and circuit court
clerks also opposed the bill, which died on a 61-35 vote in the Republican-controlled
House. Last year, the bill received 42 "yes'' votes. The year before it died in a
Tuesday, February 15, 2000
Michigan lawmaker wants to make
divorces harder to obtain
A story published today in the Detroit News
reports that Michigan state Rep. Lauren Hager wants couples to know that a marriage
doesn't stop when the "tingling feeling" does.
Hager introduced a bill today to create so-called covenant marriages
in Michigan. Couples who opt for such unions would agree to premarital counseling. They'd
also have to receive counseling before a divorce, which would only be granted for causes
such as adultery, abuse, drug abuse or abandonment.
"A couple would agree, before marriage, that they would stay
together until the traditional death do us part," said Hager, R-Port Huron. Under his
bill, a couple could request either a traditional or covenant marriage.
Legislation to make it more difficult to get divorced in Michigan
also was introduced in 1997 and 1998. Both efforts were defeated.
In a related move, Rep. Joanne Voorhees, R-Wyoming, soon will
introduce a package of bills to limit divorce to cases where both spouses agree, a person
can prove improper conduct by a spouse or if it's deemed in the best interests of the
Under her bill, no-fault divorce would still exist, but a judge
would be required to give a greater share of marital assets to the spouse not seeking the
Ever since California pioneered no-fault divorce in 1969 -- now
common in all states -- the number of divorces has tripled.
About 38,000 Michigan couples divorced in 1998, the last year where
statistics are available. There were about 65,000 marriages in 1998.
About 3 percent of couples have chosen covenant marriages in Arizona
and Louisiana since that option became available in those two states two years ago.
Rep. Lynne Martinez, D-Lansing, said couples who want such marriages
can arrange it through their church. "I think it would be silly to add that to state
law," she said.
University of Michigan
study finds unmarried families are more common
A story published today in the New York Times
reports that a new study reveals that the number of couples who live together out of
wedlock, often with children, is increasing rapidly.
The study was conducted by a sociologist at the Institute for Social
Research at the University of Michigan. It reports that about two in five children will
spend at least some time living with their mother and her unmarried partner. Less
frequently, children will live with their father and his partner.
"I think that the public will be surprised that almost half of
all children will be likely to experience this type of household," said Pamela J.
Smock, the sociologist who prepared the study.
The report also suggested that the number of children believed to be
living in single-parent homes may be significantly exaggerated. About 40 percent of
children born outside of marriage are actually living in homes with two adults, the report
"A large share of children born to supposedly 'single' mothers
today are born into two-parent households," Dr. Smock wrote. "Moreover, the
widely cited increase in recent years in nonmarital childbearing is largely due to
cohabitation, and not to births to women living without a partner."
The new study relied on dozens of reports on the subject that have
been done over the last decade. The overall analysis found that cohabitation -- both
before and in lieu of marriage -- has become so commonplace that it is practically the
norm, and that it crosses most boundaries of age, income and race.
The study will be published this summer in the 2000 volume of the
Annual Review of Sociology. Among its findings:
- Fifty-six percent of all marriages between 1990 and 1994 were
preceded by cohabitation. From 1965 to 1974, that figure was about 10 percent.
- From 1987 to 1995, the number of women in their late 30's who
reported having cohabited rose to 48 percent from 30 percent.
- Fifty-five percent of people who live together end up marrying, but
40 percent later divorce.
- Cohabitation does not mean childlessness. About half of the divorced
people who live together have children in the household, as do 35 percent of those who
have never married.
The story says that experts generally agree about the main reasons
for the rise in cohabitation. Some are obvious, like the cultural revolution that began in
the 1960's, removing the stigma from sex out of wedlock.
But others causes go farther back, including a divorce rate that,
while now level, climbed over the last century. Children of divorce are less likely to
marry and divorced adults are more likely to live together than marry.
The marriage rate in America was 8.3 per 1,000 people in 1998, the
lowest since 1958.
The story says there is disagreement among sociologists over whether
cohabitation is replacing marriage or simply serving as a new stage of engagement. A third
view, less widely held, suggests that it may be a phenomenon affecting primarily single
people who may never marry.
A primary result, many sociologists agree, may well be on the
growing number of children being raised in such households. Although only about 11 percent
of children are born to cohabiting parents, the number seems likely to increase.
Monday, February 14, 2000
University of Chicago study
focuses on effects of unmarried cohabitation
A story published by the Chicago Maroon and
released today by U-Wire discusses a new cohabitation study by University of Chicago
Sociology Professor Linda Waite.
Waite says that unmarried cohabiting couples lack a commitment in
their relationships and are thus adverse to long-term marriage. She says that such
couples, who are increasing in number, are also likely to make less money and are more
likely to physically abuse one another than married couples.
Although many academics expect the United Sates to follow the
relationship trend of Scandinavian countries, in which long-term cohabiting relationships
have become an institutionalized alternative to marriage, Waite has observed cohabitation
in the United States to be continually short-term. In fact, she sees cohabitation in the
future as remaining temporary and as leading to a lack of committed marriages in the
Another study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center
(NORC), a University of Chicago research facility, confirms that as we enter the 21st
century, the concept of the stereotypical 1950s American family continues to disappear.
"Cohabitation, both before the first marriage and between
marriages, is the rule," Thomas W. Smith, director of the NORC general social survey
and author of the study, said, "Cohabitation remains, in America, a short term
phenomenon." Cohabitation was one of the subjects which Smith's recent study looked
at. His study, published by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), detailed the
massive changes away from tradition in the American family due to divorce, cohabitation
and single parenthood and their influences on American children.
According to Smith, the average rate for cohabitation is a little
over a year, with cohabited relationships usually ending in break-ups or marriage.
Statistics show that almost two-thirds of Americans chose to cohabit before getting
married. Also, recent Census Bureau figures show that four million heterosexual couples
are currently living in cohabitational relationships -- the figure is eight times that of
According to Waite, cohabited couples also lack the shared financial
resources upon which married couples rely. "It's a deal -- a deal that [the life]
they've chosen doesn't give them," Waite said. "It's every man for
himself." Members do not pool their money, and those with separate incomes are forced
to pay separate taxes.
Members of cohabitational relationships are also less likely to
connect with their mate's family and to take care of their mate's children. In her
article, "The Negative Effects of Cohabitation," written for The Responsive
Community, an academic journal, Waite writes, "The parenting role of a cohabiting
partner toward the child(ren) of the other person is extremely vaguely defined. The
non-parent partner -- the man in the substantial majority of case -- has no explicit
legal, financial, supervisory, or custodial rights or responsibilities regarding the child
of his partner." Also, because many religions disapprove of cohabitation, many
cohabiting couples are adverse to religious association.
The study also details the fact that members of cohabiting
relationships are more likely to lead separate lives than are those who are married. A
cohabiting couple is also less likely than a married couple or a dating couple to have a
monogamous sexual relationship. Waite writes in The Responsive Community, "Four
percent of married women had a secondary sex partner compared to 20 percent of cohabiting
women and 18 percent of dating women."
Waite's results do not relate to cohabitational couples who are
engaged. She feels that because those who are engaged are planning to spend their lives
together, they are able to specialize. "They're not planning an easy exit; they're
planning to get married, they just haven't done it yet," Waite said.
Census Bureau reports
major drop in black households led by couples
A story published today in the Boston Herald
reports that nearly half of black households across the country are being led by single
Census Bureau data from 1999, released today, showed that while
married couples head 47 percent of the country's 8.4 million black households, 45 percent,
or 3.8 million families, are led by lone women.
In 1970, married couples headed 68 percent of black families. By
1990, that figure had dropped to 50 percent.
Of the nation's 53.1 million white households in 1999, 13 percent
are headed by women alone - the same percentage as in 1991, according to census numbers.
Charles Willie, a Harvard University sociologist, said yesterday it
is difficult to determine what the latest statistics reveal.
"I think we have to be careful to about drawing
cause-and-effect conclusions,'' he said. "This could be the front sector of a trend
that eventually will find families from all population groups in it. The factors that
contribute to the high numbers of single parents in the black community also are out there
for the white community.''
Religious summit on divorce in
A story published today in the Oklahoman
reports that a group of the state's religious leaders are meeting today at the state
Capitol to discuss ways to cut Oklahoma's high divorce rate.
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim representatives are
answering the call of Gov. Frank Keating, whose Marriage Initiative prompted the meeting.
The story says that Rev. Kent Choate, family ministries specialist
for the state Southern Baptist organization, said it tears him apart that Baptists lead
all Christian denominations in divorce. Choate said Southern Baptists have made premarital
counseling the cornerstone of their efforts.
Choate said the Baptists also will recruit and train marriage
mentors who can talk about their successful marriages to newly married couples.
About 75 percent to 80 percent of Oklahoma weddings are performed by
ministers. Choate says they need to start holding those they marry to a higher standard.