This page contains news for
the period Monday, February 21, 2000 through Tuesday, February 29, 2000.
<< February 2000 >>
exempts religious nonprofits from state marital status discrimination laws
A story published today by Planet Out reports
that Kentucky's church-owned non-profits will be free to discriminate based on gender,
marital status and religion if the governor signs a bill passed by the state legislature.
Monday, February 28, 2000
With the General Assembly handling so many religion-related bills
that one legislator has expressed fears of a theocracy, both houses of the Kentucky
legislature have passed a bill exempting church-run non-profit facilities from civil
If Governor Paul Patton signs HB 70 (Kerr) into law -- and he has
taken no public position to date -- those facilities will be able to refuse the business
of those they disapprove of on religious grounds, including atheists and those of other
faiths, unmarried couples, and gays and lesbians (who are protected by only by three
municipal and one county ordinance, all passed last year).
The Senate on February 23 voted 17 - 12 to approve HB 70, which had
previously been passed by the House 82 - 17 on February 2. All twelve "nays" in
the Senate were Democrats; four Democrats joined 13 Republicans in support of the measure;
and there were a number of abstentions.
HB 70 was introduced in the Senate by its President Pro Tem Dick
Roeding (R-Fort Mitchell), who said it would "restore a measure of religious freedom
to Kentucky's churches and religious organizations to allow them to manage their property
according to their religious beliefs." Sponsor and author Representative Tom Kerr
(D-Taylor Mill) had used almost the same words to introduce it in the House, where he
called it "an attempt to restore a measure of religious freedom to our religious
"The religious banner has been used to promote unfair treatment
and preferential standing and discrimination," state Senator Ernesto Scorsone
(D-Lexington) said in debating the measure. "What we're really saying is, 'Churches,
it's OK for you all to discriminate.'" He noted that churches are already exempt from
state civil rights laws in hiring. He asserted that if churches go into business,
"They have to play by the same rules and they can't discriminate. What comes next?
Church buses don't have to follow the speed rules?"
Originally the bill would have exempted religious
non-profit worship and recreational activities and facilities from all of the state's
anti-discrimination protections, but it was amended to prohibit discrimination based on
race, color, national origin, and disability.
Sunday, February 27, 2000
Study links long-term marriages
and financial prosperity
A story published today in the Arizona
Republic reports that studies show that long-wedded people are more likely to enjoy
financial bliss than their single counterparts.
If they pick the right kind of spouse and stay together for a few
decades, that is.
"People who are continuously married have an advantage in terms
of total wealth," said Janet Wilmoth, assistant professor of sociology at Purdue
The story says that in 1998 she reviewed data on 12,000 Americans
ages 51 to 61 and found that marital history related to striking differences in debt load,
home equity and overall net worth.
"Never-marrieds take the biggest hit - for every $1 a
continuously married person has, (the never-marrieds) have about 25 cents," she said.
Those divorced or widowed who remained single end up with about 50 cents on the dollar,
and people with multiple marriages about 75 cents.
According to the story, the economic benefits of marriage include
division of labor (one spouse could stay home with kids, eliminating child-care costs, for
example) and shared expenses, which lead to lower per-capita costs for basic necessities.
Merely living together doesn't produce the same results, because legal marriage often
provides health insurance, retirement income and Social Security benefits.
"It's the idea of cumulative advantage," Wilmoth said.
"A broken marital history puts you on another track that is very hard to recover
Saturday, February 26, 2000
Mandatory celibacy contributes
to shortage of Catholic priests
A story published today by the Saginaw News
said that at the age of 39, Leo Lynch found himself at a rending crossroads. His dilemma:
continue faithfully serving the Catholic church as a celibate priest or forfeit his career
The Saginaw resident and his wife, Judy, will celebrate their 30th
wedding anniversary in July. They have two sons.
"Marriage is a healthy life choice," Lynch says.
"It's like the old saying, 'Don't criticize a person until you walk in his shoes.'
"Well I've walked in both and I see no conflict of having
married priests. I have maintained my commitment to the church through my family."
The story says that Lynch is among more than two dozen priests who
have left their canonical duties at the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw to wed in the past 30
An estimated 130,000 priests worldwide - including 20,000 in America
- have followed suit, according to statistics by Celibacy Is the Issue Inc.
Church law prohibits priests from marrying or running for an elected
office. A priest who marries should automatically cease conducting church functions,
including celebrating Mass and delivering holy sacraments.
However, dome married priests remain optimistic that change is on
the horizon for the 62 million-member church.
"There are many things in the Catholic church that look kind of
cut and dried, such as one day using married priests to offset priest shortages,"
says Smolinski, a chaplain at Saint Mary's hospital. "However, at the level of the
people, we do what we can to slowly change things for the better."
Their efforts are slowly paying off. In 1981, the Vatican granted
dispensation to married ministers converting from other faiths. The move was designed to
help offset Catholic priest shortages.
In 1996, William W. Lipscomb became Michigan's first married
Catholic priest. Lipscomb previously served as a military chaplain and an ordained
Episcopal priest before converting to Catholicism.
Last year, 47,210 priests served in the United
States, down 383 from 1998, according to data from the Official Catholic Directory.
Utah House passes bill
requiring "abstinence only" sex education
A story published today by the Desert News
reports that the Utah House of Representatives passed HB411, a bill banning the teaching
of anything but abstinence in sex education classes in public schools.
Passage of the bill left some who opposed it actually shaking their
heads. But to supporters, it only makes sense don't teach teenagers sexual
alternatives that could lead to disease, death or pregnancy.
Currently, most teenagers take health courses that don't teach ways
to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. Courses that deal with those
sensitive issues come only with parental approval and all courses teach abstinence as the
best way to go.
"Sexually transmitted diseases are ugly," said Rep. Sheryl
Allen, R-Bountiful. "But as bad as they are, unwanted pregnancies are worse,"
she said in seeking an amendment that would allow parents, with a written request, to let
their children get special education on disease and birth control measures.
But instead of adopting Allen's amendment, legislators changed it to
say only abstinence can be taught in special classes.
And then they adopted another amendment that said children must be
taught that any "sexual relations outside of marriage is criminal conduct."
HB411 is against parental choice in schools, something Republicans
love to tout, because it takes away from parents and children some very important choices:
like the choice not to get HIV and die from AIDS and the choice not to get pregnant,
several legislators said.
The bill passed 40-27. Only Republicans voted for it. Eight moderate
Republicans and all the Democrats voted against it.
It now goes to the Senate where it's future is unknown.
Friday, February 25, 2000
Virginia sodomy reform bill
A story published today in the Washington
Blade reports that a bill to reduce the penalty for having oral or anal sex in Virginia
was defeated Wednesday by a committee in the State Senate.
By a vote of 9-6, the Senate Courts of Justice committee voted to
"pass by indefinitely" House Bill 718, which would have reduced the penalty for
violating Virginias "Crimes Against Nature" law, which prohibits any act
of oral or anal sex, from a felony to a misdemeanor. The parliamentary motion means that
the bill will not be considered again before the end of the session, essentially killing
HB 718, proposed by Del. Karen Darner (D-Arlington), had passed the
House Courts of Justice committee on Feb. 13, and barely cleared the House of Delegates
last week with a vote of 50-49 before being defeated.
The story reports that one bright spot in the Legislature is a
hospital visitation bill which would allow individuals to specify who could grant
visitation rights to them in the hospital if they should become incapacitated. Because
unmarried couples are not legally related, they can be denied the right to visit their
partners in the hospital, especially if the patients family opposes their presence.
That hospital visitation bill (SB 734) sailed
through the Senate with no opposition and is expected to pass easily in the House.
February 23, 2000
Voters in Ferndale, Michigan
defeat anti-discrimination ordinance
A story published today by the Associated
Press reports that voters in this Detroit suburb narrowly rejected a controversial
ordinance that would have banned discrimination against gays and other minority groups.
The proposal, which would have outlawed discrimination in a dozen
categories, including marital status discrimination, failed 51 percent to 49 percent
Tuesday, according to unofficial returns. The vote was 2,406-2,289.
It was the sexual-orientation category that brought the majority of
Tuesday's turnout - 28 percent of Ferndale's registered voters - was
heavier than usual for primary elections, city officials said.
Ferndale's City Council passed the ordinance last fall, but it was
overturned in a petition drive.
In 1991, Ferndale voters defeated a different proposal banning
Tuesday, February 22,
New York judge says homeless
single people can't be forced to work for shelter
A story published today by the Associated
Press reports that a judge ruled Tuesday that New York City may not force homeless single
adults to accept workfare jobs in exchange for city shelter.
Justice Stanley Sklar said the law violates a consent decree that
requires the city to give shelter for every needy adult who seeks it.
Under the city program known as workfare, welfare recipients are put
to work by city departments.
The law requiring the homeless to work stems from a 1995 regulation
issued by the state Department of Social Services at the city's request. It requires
anyone seeking shelter in New York - even for one night - to comply with welfare
But in 1981 and 1983, the city signed consent decrees in which it
agreed to provide shelter to every needy, single adult who asked for it.
Sklar ruled that the consent decrees hold. Because
the agreements only cover single people, lawyers for the homeless could ask the courts to
extend the ruling to homeless families with children.
Definition of 'family' is
A story published today in the Seattle Times
reports that changing demographics and living arrangements are causing people to define
"family" in a broader way.
Many changes have already occurred but the American family is poised
to change even more dramatically in the coming century, experts say. As more women enter
the work force, cohabitation rates climb and societal tolerance for alternative lifestyles
increases, we will continue to move light-years from the idealized image of such '50s TV
families as Ozzie and Harriet and the Cleavers - the traditional two-parent model with
stay-at-home mother, working father and two children under one roof.
"Were talking about profound changes," says Tom Smith,
director of the General Social Survey conducted annually by the University of Chicago's
National Opinion Research Center. "You can actually look at the course of human
history and talk about only a few shifts in basic family types, and we're seeing one of
those shifts right here - it's historic."
Marriage has declined as the primary institution under which
households are organized and children are raised, he notes. Growing numbers of women are
delaying marriage and childbirth or possibly never marrying or having children, and other
diverse living arrangements are flourishing, with no decline in sight.
"What was the normal or average family is not what it was a
generation ago - there is not one dominant family type like there was before," Smith
says. "A majority of people raising children today are raising them in a different
kind of family than the one in which they were raised."
Smith's survey, "The Emerging 21st-Century American
Family," revealed these trends, expected to continue:
* By 1998, only 56 percent of adults were married, compared with
nearly 75 percent in 1972.
* Because of high divorce rates, cohabitation and single parenthood,
a majority of families rearing children in the next century probably will not include the
children's original two parents. In 1998, just 51 percent lived in a two-parent household
compared with 73 percent in 1972.
* The percentage of U.S. households composed of married couples with
children dropped from 45 percent in the 1970s to 26 percent in 1998.
* Children living with single parents increased from less than one
in 20 in 1972 to almost one in five in 1998, while the percentage of children living in a
blended household more than doubled, from 3.8 percent to 8.6 percent.
* The number of households with unmarried adults and no children
more than doubled in that time period, to 33 percent, becoming the nation's most common
The story predicts that social scientists expect to see more such
households in coming years. As values change, researchers such as Smith say there is less
social stigma attached to nontraditional arrangements.
Monday, February 21, 2000
Many embryo clinics
discriminate against unmarrieds
A story published today by Reuters Health
reports that national guidelines governing the donation of frozen embryos need to be
clarified as use of the assisted reproductive technology grows, results of a recent survey
The procedure involves the donation of a fertilized human egg to an
infertile couple or a single woman. While it is not a frequently used alternative for
infertile couples, embryo donation could become more popular in the future, researchers
The survey, sent to members of the Society of Assisted Reproductive
Technology, sought to determine the consistency of screening requirements for donors and
recipients in 108 assisted reproduction programs throughout the US.
"Variability in program procedures and policies suggests that
guidelines need to be clarified," conclude Dr. Sheryl A. Kingsberg of Case Western
Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues.
Unmarried couples were eligible to receive embryos at 61% of the
programs, single women at 59% and lesbian couples at 55%. All of the programs considered
married couples to be eligible recipients.
"As public awareness broadens regarding the
potential of embryo donation as a reproductive option and as an alternative to traditional
adoption, fertility programs can expect the interest in donated embryos to grow
significantly," the authors predict.