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U.S. News Archive
April 14 - April 20, 2000





This page contains news for the period Friday, April 14, 2000 through Thursday, April 20, 2000.


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Thursday, April 20, 2000

Mississippi Legislature approves homosexual adoption ban

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that Mississippi lawmakers voted Wednesday to ban gay couples from adopting, becoming the second state in 2000 to try to keep homosexuals from becoming parents despite threatened lawsuits.

Until this year, only Florida had a law forbidding homosexual couples from adopting. Utah's Legislature approved a ban this spring and policy makers in other states are debating the issue, fueled by recognition of gay unions in Vermont.

The debate in Mississippi pitted religious denominations against each other, when the state's top Episcopal leader urged the defeat of the ban. Baptists and Methodists pressed ahead with a lobbying effort for the bill. The Senate passed the ban Wednesday without debate and without opposition. The House had given approval earlier, and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has already said he will sign the bill.

"Morally, we did the right thing,'' said Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood. Sen. Ron Farris, R-Hattiesburg, said sodomy is a crime in Mississippi. "A homosexual relationship implies the exercise of illegal activities and no child should be permitted to enter that type of setting,'' Farris said.

The bill, which takes effect July 1, said "adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.''


Wednesday, April 19, 2000 

Indiana college couples try sharing rent before sharing vows

A story published today by the Indiana Daily Student reports that more college students than ever before are cohabiting outside of wedlock.

When most students' parents were born, living together was a social taboo. In 1960, there were about 400,000 unmarried couple households, but now the number has soared to more than four million according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This year, Haverford College in Pennsylvania will join two other East Coast colleges or universities allowing men and women to share dormitory rooms. A social stigma no longer, cohabitation is on the rise and proving to be a fantasy for some couples and a nightmare for others.

Some sociologists regard unmarried cohabitation as a modern day "courtship ritual," said Patricia McManus, an assistant professor of sociology.

"Overwhelmingly, most people are still getting married; however, there is a slight drop in the proportion of people relative to the '50s and '60s," she said.

Mark Erdosy, a pastoral associate at St. Paul's Catholic Church, said most cohabiting couples coming for marriage preparation at St. Paul's initially say they moved in for financial reasons.

"For the most part cohabiting couples are saving one person's monthly rent, but it's almost like they are mortgaging the long term for short-term gain," Erdosy said.

He said during the rite of marriage, when the priest asks the couple, "Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?" they cannot answer a 100 percent "yes" because they are financially dependent on each other.

Other couples said it was "the next logical step" or they were just going to test it out.

While Erdosy said he does not think cohabitation is a good idea, Carol McCord, assistant dean of the office for women's affairs and clinician at the Kinsey Institute, supports the practice of cohabitation. McCord said cohabitation is a time to agree and negotiate if living together works.

She said cohabitation is an important step in choosing a mate.

"It's a really healthy way of practicing the skills of daily living and a further step toward adulthood than living with a couple of buddies," she said. "Some women want to see if a partner is going to be equally supportive. Getting married solely because you want to have sex is not a good reason."

A 1995 study by Bumpass and Sweet, in a Web site associated with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, found 50 percent of marriages preceded by cohabitation ended in divorce. High divorce rates can partly be explained by changing attitudes within society, Erdosy said.

"The whole institution of marriage is changing," he said. "In my unscientific perspective, long-term no longer means a lifetime. Our society's individualistic nature makes us more focused on 'my needs, my wants, me, me, me' and marriage needs to be 'we' focused."

McManus said high divorce rates can be explained by the individuals who, regardless of cohabitation, are already prone to divorce because of their attitude toward commitment and marriage.

People more likely to cohabit are often children of divorce, are divorced themselves or do not have religion playing a serious role in their lives, McManus said.


Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Jesse Ventura vetoes marriage-fee bill

A story published today by the Star Tribune reports that Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has vetoed a bill which would have lowed the marriage license fee for married couples who participate in pre-marital counseling.

The bill would have raised the marriage license fee to $75, but would have provided a $50 reduction to couples who took 12 hours of premarital education.

Wedded to relationship but not to marriage

A story published today by USA Today reports that living together without a marriage license tends to be a transitory stage for heterosexual couples. Within about 18 months, most couples either wed or break up.

Only about one-sixth of live-ins last at least three years, and only one-tenth endure five years or more, according to University of Michigan sociologist Pamela Smock.

The story says that Janna Cordeiro and Stephan Toomey fall into the one-tenth category, couples who stay together for the long term. They are among many who think the experts who criticize cohabitation as a social evil are off-base.

The couple fell in love in college 10 years ago and elected to forsake assigned housing with its unpredictable roommates and to live "with someone we love," says Toomey, 30, of Atlanta. But over time they made a conscious decision to stay together and not marry.

"We did not take it for granted that we would still be able to make each other happy in five years," says Cordeiro, also 30. "We assumed that we might change and grow apart. We decided to check in with each other on a regular basis and re-evaluate." At first it was about every six months, because she felt too young to make a longer commitment.

Toomey, a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology, notes: "For the first four or five years, we were very careful not to talk about plans years head. We were careful to give each other our own space, to not be dependent on each other for ultimate happiness."

The couple say they do not need wedding vows to cement a union. "We didn't want a relationship based on some false sense of security," says Cordeiro, who works as an AIDS researcher with a consulting firm. "Our relationship is about getting up and treating each other each day with respect and love. I don't need a marriage license to give me that."

They have, she says, "built a life together. It is a cop-out to say that living together makes it easier if we want to leave. It would still be hard, but in a way that would not involve a judge or court system."

They have talked through the basic issues. "I never wanted to fight with him about money," Cordeiro says. "It is not worth it. We have separate checkbooks. We split everything 50-50. In the beginning, though, we had different ideas about money. I worry about it; he doesn't."

Cordeiro does not believe cohabiting will weaken their relationship. Marriage is no guarantee of longevity, she says. "I've seen a lot of people get divorced. Some divorces are amicable, and others are really messy."

The "marriage industry" infuriates her. A friend's father "just spent $40,000 on her wedding. That just takes the focus off the spiritual and legal bond of marriage."

The couple are coming up on their 10th anniversary. They are planning lifestyle changes, including having a baby and moving to San Francisco. But they will not be looking for a justice of the peace. "We will get the paperwork done if we have a child, to protect his or her legal rights. But I am not concerned about any stigma. The most important thing is the child is loved, not whether we have a license."


Monday, April 17, 2000

New York state budget would eliminate 'marriage penalty' in tax law

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a deal struck by legislative leaders and the governor would eliminate the so-called "marriage penalty" in New York's state income tax laws.

This would be accomplished by increasing the standard deduction on state income taxes from $13,000 to $15,000. That change will save typical married couples about $140 a year and bring their tax bill into line with what two unmarried adults living together would pay.

The state estimates that married taxpayers would save $200 million when the plan is phased in over five years.


Saturday, April 15, 2000

Commentary: open adoption records are not a good idea

A commentary by Mike McManus published today in the Spokesman Review criticizes laws that open up adoption records to adoptees for inspection.

The commentary asks "Should adoption records should be open, so an adopted child can obtain the name of its birth mother or a birth mother could have access to her child after relinquishing it for adoption?"

After reviewing the results of open-adoption laws, McManus says the process is not good.

Although TV talk shows regularly feature stories of adopted children who as adults seek their birth mother and are happily reunited, McManus says that there is a reality not given attention by Oprah.

McManus explains that when most women agreed to relinquish a child for adoption, they were promised confidentiality -- and sealed adoption records. A birth mother wants her privacy protected, so that a future husband and family might not learn that she had given birth out of wedlock. Similarly, adoptive parents would not want a child they are rearing to meet its "real mother," which would only be confusing.

Yet, he says, the Clinton Administration introduced the Model State Adoption Act in Congress in 1998 seeking to mandate "open adoption." Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., an adoptive father himself, opposed it, noting, "After Great Britain changed its adoption laws in 1975 to allow adopted individuals to view their unamended birth certificates, a significant decline took place in the number of children placed for adoption."

How significant? There was a 93 percent plunge in adoption after adoption privacy was eliminated. The adoptions of infant children fell from 4,548 in 1975 to 322 in 1995.

Had such a bill been passed by the United States in 1975, we would have had only 1,610 infant adoptions, not 23,537. The remaining 22,000 U.S. babies would have either been parented by unmarried single women or aborted.


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