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U.S. News Archive
April 01 - April 06, 2000





This page contains news for the period Saturday, April 01, 2000 through Thursday, April 06, 2000.


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Thursday, April 6, 2000

Ohio lawmakers decline federal funding for sex education

A story published today in the Beacon Journal reports that some conservative lawmakers in Ohio believe so strongly that abstinence is the only policy to teach kids when it comes to sex education, they're willing to abstain from federal money to prove it.

As a March 31 deadline passed for the state to take action on a $855,321 grant, Ohio last week became the first state ever to turn down a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant that includes money for sex education.

Although the CDC was willing to give the state a little more time, that gesure probably won't change the picture. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-West Liberty, said he doesn't foresee any compromise soon.

"I sure hope it's dead,'' Jordan said. "Let them keep the money.''

A joint education committee held hearings Jan. 20 and 21, but never voted on whether to accept the federal funds after some legislators demanded the money be used to fund abstinence-only programs.

And because the CDC issues grants in five-year cycles, Ohio is in danger of losing grants for more than just this year, said Paul Marshall, director of the office of budget and governmental relations for the Ohio Department of Education.


Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Prosecutor dropping cohabitation case in New Mexico

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a couple who live together and plan to marry within a year will not be charged under New Mexico's 37-year-old law banning cohabitation by unmarried couples.

"It's not in anybody's best interest to have the courts clogged with this kind of case," District Attorney Mike Runnels said Monday.

The story says that Richard Pitcher and Kimberly Henry were accused by Pitcher's ex-wife of violating the 1963 law, which prohibits unwed people from living together as "man and wife."

Henry had been summoned to appear in court Tuesday for arraignment, but Runnels said he will ask the court to dismiss the case.

Pitcher's ex-wife, Vickie Avants, told a deputy sheriff that her ex-husband and his fiancée had been living together since February. Avants, who has a child with Pitcher, said the arrangement would expose the child to a "non-family environment."

Anyone convicted for the first time is warned by a judge to "cease and desist." Future offences are punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to six months in jail or both.


Monday, April 3, 2000

Gay dad battles prejudice in Indiana

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that it is a real struggle for a single gay man to adopt children, even special needs children, in Indiana. The experience of Craig Peterson serves as an example.

Peterson wanted to be a father. He believed that four adopted children would soon fill the empty halls of his suburban Indianapolis home and share the comfortable life he'd built as a successful salesman.

The story says that Peterson knew he would have to overcome the stigma of being single and gay. He found a group of siblings, three boys and a girl, all black and all brain-damaged from fetal alcohol syndrome. They were kids who required special attention, kids others looking to adopt might pass over.

Peterson, who is white, went through months of interviews and training. His patience and perseverance paid off. The adoption board voted unanimously to place all of the children with him.

But then the little girl's foster parents, Saundra and Earl Kimmerling, learned that Peterson is gay. They protested, rallying state and local politicians to their side.

The story hit the local newspaper, with Earl Kimmerling saying adoption by a homosexual was against God's will and it would be unjust to place Mary in such an "immoral" household.

Within a week of learning that Peterson is gay, the Kimmerlings filed to adopt Mary.

"We have her and we're a family," Saundra Kimmerling said at the time. "We've been a family and now it's going to be official."

However, the little girl was later molested by Earl Kimmerling, 52, who was charged and found guilty. He is currently serving a 40-year prison sentence.

The ACLU of Indiana has now filed a federal lawsuit on Peterson's behalf, accusing authorities of violating his constitutional rights by reversing the adoption decision.

The story says that Jim Hmurovich, director of the division of family and children, claims that proper procedures were followed. "Everything we do, we have to do in the best interest of the children," Hmurovich said.

Peterson has tried to remain strong throughout, being a father to the boys, teaching them to ride bikes, explaining to them as gently as possible what has happened to their sister.

Recently, Michael, 5, posed a question. "Father," he asked. "Can't we call Mary to make sure we know she's OK?"

"Maybe someday we'll be able to do that," Peterson replied.

Dear Abby says that a pregnancy should not force people to marry quickly

In today's "Dear Abby" column, a reader, known as "Lessor Learned in Florida," writes about his own experience of a "shotgun" wedding in response to his girlfriend's pregnancy. He warns another reader, known as "Soon to Be a Grandpa," not to pressure his son to marry his pregnant girlfriend just because of the pregnancy.

The Florida dad says that about two years ago he found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. He wanted to "do the right thing" and so they married after knowing each other five months.

Florida dad says wrote to Abby:

"If you think marrying someone you hardly know is stressful, wait until the birth of a child. I love my beautiful daughter with all my heart. However, my marriage to her mother was the most traumatic experience I have ever been through!

"Abby, you were right on the money when you said that marriage can wait. The young man should not put himself in a bind to prove he is committed to the unborn child. That is what I did — and it was the worst decision I’ve ever made. The divorce (we were married eight months) still causes much pain for me and everyone I know.

"Things are finally starting to normalize. We have joint custody of our daughter.

"Please tell 'Soon to Be a Grandpa'to warn his son. I know the son feels like his relationship is different and he can make it work. I felt the same way. He should enjoy his newborn and participate in his/her life as much as possible. But marriage is not the answer. If it turns out that their commitment to each other is genuine, best of luck to them! However, nothing is harmed by a little patience."

Abby responded: "Dear Lesson Learned: I agree; a child should be raised in a home where the parents love each other. "

North Carolina man fined $500,000 for adultery

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a North Carolina man who makes about $12 an hour working in a factory has been ordered to pay $500,000 for having an affair with another man's wife.

James Hill filed a lawsuit against Allen Winebarger in December 1998, saying his 18-year marriage to Carol Hill was close and loving until she met Winebarger, who is 13 years younger than Carol Hill and coached two of their children in youth sports.

Winebarger, however, said Carol Hill had complained of James Hill's alcohol use, an interest in pornography and not spending enough time with her and the children. Winebarger described his relationship with Carol Hill as a close friendship. But he admitted that the two went away for a weekend while she was still married, and that they share the same bed at the mobile home they moved into in Weaverville - with her three children.

The story says that last month, Superior Court Judge Zoro Guice ordered Winebarger to pay $500,000 to Hill.

While adultery remains a crime in North Carolina, critics say such "alienation of affection'' lawsuits are archaic and stem from an era when women were considered property. North Carolina is one of only a dozen or so states with alienation of affection laws on the books.

"It takes two individuals to have an affair,'' says Asheville family law attorney Howard Gum. "So the spouse is at least as guilty, in my mind anyway, more culpable because, after all, they are breaking the marriage vow. Yet, that spouse is insulated from any consequence as a result of the wrongdoing, and some individual who is a `stranger to the marriage' has to go through the process of being publicly humiliated.''

Supporters say the lawsuits are an effective way to hold someone accountable for "intruding'' in a sacred covenant.


Sunday, April 2, 2000

Gay scholar argues against same-sex marriage

A story published today in the Providence Journal reports that the legalization of same-sex marriage is not a primary goal for all gay rights advocates. The story focuses on the views of William S. Hampl, a University of Rhode Island doctoral candidate who is also gay.

The story says that in the workplace and elsewhere in society, married people have status. They seem to be taken more seriously than single people, because they are seen as more mature. They are said to be more likely to be invited to dinner parties. They are also more likely to be elected to public office.

It emphasizes that these are just a few of the reasons why homosexuals should be allowed to legally marry, goes the argument by many gays and lesbians -- many, but not all.

"To read gay news magazines, one might think gays think of nothing else but marriage,'' said William S. Hampl, who is gay and who presented what he said are seldom-heard opposing views on the subject at the recent Symposium on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues at the University of Rhode Island.

Hampl, a URI doctoral candidate, based his talk on a 1999 book by "queer theorist'' Michael Warner. Entitled The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life , the book explores -- among other things -- whether marriage is a good idea for anyone, gay or straight.

Warner's book explores the historical roots of marriage as a means of reinforcing male domination, and he questions the intrusion of state authority into private and intimate relationships. "The state,'' writes Warner, "merely certifies a love that is beyond law.'' In this way, he says, the state "justifies its existence as keeper of the law.''

Hampl says that a gay or lesbian couple seeking to be legally married displays "a willful ignorance of the best of queer politics.'' Because marriage is so deeply embedded in the cultural unconscious, a gay or lesbian couple is likely to consider it ennobling -- that they are "less worthy if you don't have it,'' said Hampl.

He explains that a couple may also desire marriage as a means of obtaining health care, or to share their property, as a sign of mutual belonging.

But Hampl argues that other, more cynical, reasons for wanting to marry include wanting to "stick it in the face of heterosexuals,'' or even just wanting to get wedding presents. Hampl mentioned one gay man's goal of marrying a succession of AIDS patients in order to collect their life insurance -- not a bad idea, in Hampl's opinion, if that money is diverted to AIDS-related causes.

The story says that supporters of legalizing gay marriage have argued that society would benefit from the change, because the stereotype of a dominant husband and submissive wife would be balanced by a model in which the two partners are equal.

But Hampl claims that this works only in theory. In real life, he says, gays themselves often inquire of gay couples: "Which one of you does the man things?''

"It's not just an innocent question,'' said Hampl, but one that goes to the heart of the relationship. "Who wears the pants? Who's the breadwinner? Who's in control?''

The story says that another argument in favor of gay marriage is that it will strengthen ties between the heterosexual and homosexual communities, because married people in both categories will have marriage in common.

But the downside, said Hampl -- again citing Warner -- is that the homosexual community gets divided into two camps: those for and those against marriage. Indeed, the whole issue of gay marriage distracts attention from other gay concerns, he said. Plus, he said, a gap would be created between married and unmarried homosexuals, "leaving the unmarried to appear even more deviant than they already do'' in the eyes of the legal system.

Those who choose not to marry would find themselves the subject of speculation: "So why aren't they getting married? So what's their problem?''

Also, predicted Warner, the state is likely to crack down on unmarried gays, by criminalizing all sex outside of marriage, by harassing gays, and by censoring sexually explicit materials.

Hampl said gays and lesbians should not overlook what many heterosexual couples have discovered through the centuries: that "marriage can sometimes be a stifling burden'' in which a person is "stuck going through the motions,'' trying "to keep up appearances to avoid divorce.''

Ultimately what matters, he said, is that "our relationships make us happy. If they don't, we change them.'' As things stand now, "no lawyers are necessary.''

According to the story, audience members had a range of reactions to Hampl's presentation, with several agreeing that the current interest in marriage among homosexuals is a reaction to the AIDS epidemic.

Most also concurred that, even if the institution of marriage is flawed, it should be an option for gays, because a truly egalitarian society offers the same rights to all.


Saturday, April 1, 2000

Massachusetts Supreme Court explains its fertility treatment decision

A story published today in the Boston Globe reports that the highest court in Massachusetts yesterday extended Massachusetts' tradition of personal freedom into the arena of high-tech fertility treatments, saying courts will not support ''forced procreation,'' requiring people to become parents against their will.

In a 7-0 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court explained why earlier this year it refused a woman's request to be implanted with four frozen embryos remaining from her previous marriage. Her ex-husband, although he had signed seven agreements giving the woman control over the embryos if they divorced, changed his mind and then sued to block the procedure.

The court in February had issued an order siding with the former husband. Yesterday it issued a 20-page opinion outlining its reasons.

The story says that Massachusetts is only the third state where a Supreme Court has faced issues about control of frozen embryos and the first to tackle the question of what should be done when prospective parents disagree over how embryos can be used.

''We derive from existing state laws and judicial precedent a public policy in this Commonwealth that individuals shall not be compelled to enter into intimate family relationships, and that the law shall not be used as a mechanism for forcing such relationships when they are not desired,'' Justice Judith Cowin wrote.

''This policy is grounded in the notion that respect for liberty and privacy requires that individuals be accorded the freedom to decide whether to enter into a family relationship,'' Cowin wrote.

George Annas, a lawyer and medical ethicist at Boston University, said the court's decision mirrors the way the courts have dealt with marriage: it's a personal choice, not a mandate from government.

''We are not going to force someone to get married, and we're not going to force you to become a parent,'' he said. ''This will be a highly important opinion in the rest of the country as well.''

New form to inquire about 'cohabitation' of prospective foster and adoptive parents

A story published today in the Desert News reports that the Utah Division of Child and Family Services has revised its application form used for adoptions and foster homes.

People in Utah looking to adopt or become foster parents will have to sign a form affirming that they are not cohabiting, according to the state's definition in a new law that takes effect May 1. The law defines living together as being involved in "a sexual relationship."

The state DCFS is charged with inquiring into the nature of a couple's relationship under a statute the Utah Legislature passed last month prohibiting unmarried couples, including gay and lesbian couples, from becoming adoptive and foster parents.

The form will advise applicants that "Cohabiting means being involved in any sexual relationship with that person."


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