Friday, May 5, 2000
British children born to unmarried couples:
Catholic church will baptize, Anglican church won't
A story published today by Catholic World News reports that
Britain's senior spokesman for the Catholic Church believes that children of cohabiting
couples should not be barred from baptism.
Monsignor Kieron Conry, director of the London-based Catholic
Media Office, said it would be wrong to deprive children of the sacrament because their
parents are living together.
Monsignor Conry's comments come the day after the Rev. Donald
Allister, an Anglican priest, hit the national headlines for telling parents in his
Cheshire parish they would have marry before their children could be baptized. Allister
argued that cohabiting couples were not in a position to make the baptismal promises that
they "are basically living in accordance with Christian beliefs and practice."
But Monsignor Conry told today's Catholic Times that most
priests would feel it "unfair" to "penalize a child who is not at
"Bishops have refrained from defining what constitutes
practice of faith," he added. "It used to be Mass every Sunday but now some
people see themselves as practicing if they attend Mass every month." Monsignor Conry
said it was difficult to define what is a practicing Catholic because of the many varied
situations in which people find themselves.
"Church law will never cover all eventualities," he
said. "You trust that priests with some pastoral experience and training in college
are capable of making the decision. A lot is down to the personal choice of the priest.
Some are more rigid, some are more flexible.
Wednesday, May 3, 2000
Poll shows most Arizonans
indifferent about gays
A story published today in the Arizona Daily Star predicts that if
state lawmakers repeal the laws banning gay sexual contact, most Arizonans would respond
with a big yawn. The predication is based on the results of a new statewide poll.
The survey by the Behavior Research Center says 10 percent of state
residents approve of homosexuality, 36 percent disapprove and 54 percent say they
neither support nor oppose the practice.
Pollster Earl de Berge said that attitude may lead to legislators'
ridding the state of laws that deny same-sex couples the same civil rights protections as
DeBerge said his survey was prompted by recent news about research
into the causes of homosexuality. Researchers are attempting to determine if people are
predisposed to being gay, for whatever reason, rather than it being a choice.
Among Arizonans, 38 percent believe it is a personal choice, with 23
percent saying it is genetic or biological. An additional 23 percent said they believe
both factors are involved, with the remainder unsure.
Young men want flexible work-life
A story published today by the Boston Globe reports that while
previous studies portrayed American men as more concerned about power, prestige, or money
than about their families, new findings from the Radcliffe Public Policy Center indicate
men between the ages of 20 and 39 are more likely to put family matters first.
In releasing its national survey of attitudes about work, life, and
family relationships yesterday, the Radcliffe Center said the findings suggest a
generational shift, with younger men breaking ranks with their fathers and grandfathers.
The study, conducted Jan. 18 to Feb. 2 by Harris Interactive and
financed by FleetBoston Financial, involved phone interviews with 482 men and 526 women.
The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Of the male participants between ages 20 and 39, about 82 percent
placed time with family members at the top of a wish list that included flexible
schedules. A large percentage of men in this age group are unmarried.
Some 71 percent said they would give up a portion of their pay to
ensure they could have more time with their families.
In contrast, 80 percent of the men between 40 and 49 said doing work
that allowed them to utilize their skills was more important than community service,
additional family time, or job security. Of men 50 to 64, 82 percent said they were
chiefly concerned with developing good relations with their coworkers.
"The men who are in their 60s have always seen themselves as
sole breadwinners," said Paula Rayman, director of the Radcliffe Public Policy
Center. "If you look at the research conducted over the years, you will find that the
baby boomers in their 40s and 50s grew up thinking of themselves as primary breadwinners.
When Harris pollsters interviewed women ages 20 to 39, they
pinpointed another trend: 25 percent said they did not plan to have children, up from 19
percent in a 1993 survey.
"These are young women with dual-income parents or people with
single parents who now feel that it is impossible to do it all," Rayman said.
"These young women are not saying they are not going to get married, but they are
ambivalent about having children. And, what we are seeing is that the average age for
women to have children has increased from 21 years old to approximately 27 years old, a
five-year jump for the first child."
Mississippi bans adoption of
children by gays
A story published today by the Associated Press reports that
Mississippi has enacted a law prohibiting gay couples from adopting children, although the
plan is likely to be challenged in court.
Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed the bill after it easily
cleared the Legislature in the final days of the recently concluded 2000 session. Florida
and Utah have similar laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to file a lawsuit on
behalf of an unidentified gay couple planning an adoption in Mississippi. The ACLU is
already fighting Florida's law in court.
Mississippi's law takes effect July 1. Its supporters said it was
spurred in part by Vermont's new law giving gay couples nearly all of the benefits of
The ban had divided religious groups. The state's top Episcopal
leader urged its defeat. Baptists and Methodists lobbied for it.
Connecticut took a step in the opposite direction Wednesday, as the
state's Senate gave final legislative approval to a bill that would allow gays and other
unmarried people to adopt their partners' children. Gov. John G. Rowland said he would
sign the bill into law.
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
Sterilization now a major means
of contraception for married and unmarried alike
A story filed today by Reuters reports that Sterilization has become
the number one form of contraception in the United States, surpassing even the pill in
Researchers say that 11 million women, or 18 percent, rely on either
their partner's vasectomy or their own sterilization -- a figure that surprised them. Even
more surprising, they reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility -- a third of these
women are not married.
That compares to about 10 percent of women who say they currently
use the birth control pill.
"What factors have led to this dramatic increase?'' Dr. Carolyn
Westhoff and Dr. Anne Davis of Columbia University in New York asked in their report.
"The direct medical factors include increased safety of anesthesia and surgery.''
They also said women had been worried about the health effects of
In a second report in the same journal, Larry Bumpass and colleagues
at the University of Wisconsin said they found that one-third of all recent tubal
sterilizations were performed on unmarried women. "Sterilization while unmarried is
remarkably common among all race or ethnic groups,'' the Wisconsin team wrote in their
The Bumpass team said they were also surprised to find that women
are opting to have their tubes tied rather than relying on their partner's vasectomy, even
though vasectomy is cheaper, quicker and safer.
They said perhaps women liked having control over the decision.
As for unmarried women deciding to be sterilized, they noted that a
third of all births now occur outside marriage in the United States, in part because women
are delaying marriage.
"Hence, as a consequence of these life course changes, many
women have had all the children they feel they want or can support before ever being
married,'' they wrote.
The researchers used a large national survey, the National Survey of
Family Growth, which was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly
11,000 women aged 15 to 44 were interviewed at length for the survey.
Doctor may inseminate married woman
without husband's consent
A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that a
California appellate court has ruled that a man who gave no consent and had no knowledge
of his wife's artificial insemination by her gynecologist is not entitled to punitive
damages from the doctor.
In a unanimous 3-0 decision, the First District Court of Appeal
found no merit to any of the challenges presented by Hong Soo Shin, who did not realize
Dr. Oyoung Kong was the biological father of his son until his divorce, nearly five years
after the child was born.
Shin had argued that he deserved compensation for the harm caused
when another man impregnated his wife. He also alleged that a physician who performs
artificial insemination on a married woman is obligated to obtain a husband's consent.
The appeals court disagreed, noting that the case was not about a
couple who jointly sought a doctor's services regarding artificial insemination, but
rather, one that involved a married woman who obtained artificial insemination without
telling her husband.
"The facts alleged in the complaint merely disclose that
appellant's ex-wife lied to her husband about the parentage of a child born during the
marriage after seeking artificial insemination from Dr. Kong," Justice James
Marchiano wrote in a decision released Friday.
The story says that Shin's wife, Sil Shin, worked for Kong during
the time of the events detailed in the complaint. She gave birth to her son in 1993. Her
husband did not learn of the child's paternity until late 1997, during divorce
In a complaint filed in 1998, Shin accused Kong of, among other
things, intentional infliction of emotional distress, professional malpractice and
invasion of privacy, and alleged the doctor acted with malice, fraud and intent to oppress
San Francisco Superior Court Judge David A. Garcia rejected Shin's
case in 1999. The appeals court agreed with Garcia.
"Although the pain, humiliation and suffering experienced by
appellant are palpably clear from the allegations of his complaint, he has stated no cause
of action against the man who fathered his wife's child," said Marchiano in the
DNA testing raises new dilemmas
A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports
that despite DNA evidence that a divorcing man is not the father of his wife's child, laws
in most states treat the man as the legal father anyway and require him to pay child
support until the child reaches adulthood.
This result is based on a legal fiction that a child born to a
married couple while they are living together is conclusively presumed to be the child of
the husband. No evidence may be presented in court to challenge this presumption.
The story says that three years after his divorce, Morgan Wise went
for a blood test for medical reasons. The results were shocking: It turned out that the
three boys he called "son" weren't his.
Angered, and armed with DNA evidence, the Texas railroad engineer
went back to court to fight his $1,340-a-month child-support payments.
Throughout the nation, men increasingly are arguing that they
shouldn't have to pay child support if genetic testing proves they are not fathers.
At least two states are considering legislation that would take DNA
tests into account when determining child support. The moves come as DNA-based paternity
tests in the US have tripled - to 248,000 in 1998.
But so far, courts haven't been overly sympathetic to men like Mr.
At the core of the debate is the fundamental question of how to
define fatherhood. Is it the man whose genes a child shares, or the one who cared for the
child on a day to day basis?
"It gets at the question: What makes a father? Is it genetic
heritage or is it relationship?" says John Sampson, a law professor at the University
of Texas at Austin and a member of the National Commission on Uniform State Laws in
Most states still apply a 500-year-old English common-law doctrine
that says a man is presumed to be the father of any child born to his wife during their
And while DNA may be taking center stage in criminal courts, it is
being rejected in family courts. Last week, for example, an Ohio man was jailed for
refusing to pay child support after DNA proved he wasn't the father.
And in Pennsylvania recently, the state Supreme Court ruled that a
man cannot present DNA evidence to rid himself of child support, stating that "family
interests" outweigh the use of such tests.
"Most of these judges won't even deal with DNA," says
George Stern, an Atlanta lawyer and past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial
Lawyers. "I really don't have a problem with that. I think the court system is trying
to protect the best interest of the child."
The story says that the National Commission on Uniform State Laws is
in the process of revising its parentage law. A 1973 law adopted by 19 states allowed
judges to consider blood tests as evidence up to a child's fifth birthday. But the
commission is now backing away from that position, recommending that DNA evidence be
allowed only before a child turns 2.
If a man acted as a child's father during marriage, he should
continue to do so even after the marriage has ended, Mr. Sampson says. "Let's say it
turns out my wife is unfaithful, so I say: 'Good luck, kid. You don't have a daddy
anymore.' It seems to me that might hurt their feelings a little bit," he says.
The full commission won't vote on the revisions until the end of
July, and it must be approved by the American Bar Association and individual state
legislatures before it becomes law.
Some states aren't waiting for guidance. Bills have been introduced
into both the Pennsylvania and Ohio legislatures that would allow DNA testing to be
considered in child-support cases.
In Ohio, Dennis Caron is spending 30 days in jail for failing to pay
child support on a boy he says is not his own. After he and his wife were divorced in
1992, she hinted that he might not be the father. A DNA test proved it, and he stopped the
$530 monthly child-support payments in 1997 after his ex-wife refused to let him see the
boy, he says.
Mr. Caron testified in front of the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee
in February in support of a bill that would allow men to stop paying child support and sue
to recover past payments if DNA tests prove they are not the father.
In Pennsylvania, Gerald Miscovich found out through DNA testing that
he was not the father of their son when the boy was 4, three years after he and his wife
separated. He continues to pay $537 in monthly child support. His ex-wife has since moved
out of state.
State Sen. Michael O'Pake (D), minority chairman for the Senate
Judiciary panel, said the proposed legislation will bring Pennsylvania into the 21st
"The present law in Pennsylvania unfairly forces men who are
not fathers to pay child support for their wives," he said. The bill passed the
judiciary panel and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
An organization known as Dads Against Discrimination is supporting
many of the efforts, and is trying to get similar legislation passed in its home state of
"Some of these guys really have a legitimate beef," says
Victor Smith, president of Dads Against Discrimination. "We have a healthy disrespect
for fathers. It's socially ingrained in our society."
When the courts simply assume that the husband is the father and
won't consider DNA evidence, that can mean child support for 20 years. "I know of no
other incidents in society where you're allowed to make an assumption on a $100,000
debt," he says.
Monday, May 1, 2000
Navy considers housing
stipend for unmarried, junior sailors
A story published today in the The
Virginian-Pilot reports that for most young, single sailors assigned to Navy ships,
home is where the berthing is. Navy policies make it all but impossible for them to live
anywhere but on board ship.
But tens of thousands of young sailors may soon
enjoy a way out of this lifestyle-cramping predicament. Navy brass is considering ways to
make it possible for many more unmarried junior sailors to live in town.
It's only right that these sailors ``have a place
to put their computer or stereo, a place to stretch out without having to climb up in the
top rack,'' Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James L. Herdt told about 1,200
crewmembers of the carrier Nimitz at a forum here Friday.
Calling it an important quality-of-life issue,
Herdt said Navy leaders are in the early stages of a discussion that could lead to housing
allowances or barracks accommodations for many more sailors in the lowest ranks.
When they are assigned to ships, single sailors in
the lowest four ranks don't generally qualify for an allowance that pays for housing in
town -- unless they have children or other dependents. Another way off the ship is to live
in barracks. But among Navy ships, only submarines regularly provide such accommodations
for their single junior sailors.
The only other option for these sailors is paying
out of pocket for housing in the community. That's financially out of reach for all but a
few, Navy officials say.
The easiest remedy for the problem, Herdt said, is
to make it easier for those in the lowest ranks to qualify for housing allowances. He was not able to estimate a cost for fixing the
problem, but predicted that the Navy will do what it takes. ``I don't know whether it's
going to be five years. I don't know whether it's going to be two years. But it's going to
happen soon,'' he said.
Herdt's comments drew applause from the crew of
the nuclear-powered Nimitz, which is in the middle of a three-year overhaul and refueling
at Newport News Shipbuilding.z
Male smokers tend to be unmarried, have higher suicide risk
A story published today by Reuters Health reports that men who smoke
at least 15 cigarettes a day may be four times more likely than nonsmoking men to commit
suicide, researchers report.
The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of
Public Health, the journal of the American Public Health Association, found that the risk
of suicide increased with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. The relationship between
smoking and suicide remained constant regardless of age, marital status, body mass index,
exercise habits, history of cancer, and consumption of alcohol and coffee.
The study says that the relationship between smoking and suicide is
indirect, since men who smoke tend to have other risk factors for suicide. For example,
smokers are more likely to suffer from depression and schizophrenia and to use alcohol and
drugs. Smokers are also more likely than nonsmokers to develop cancer and remain unmarried
and socially isolated, study findings have shown.
These characteristics may "predispose individuals to both
suicide and smoking," write Dr. Matthew Miller of the Harvard School of Public Health
in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.
More than 50,000 men participated in the 8-year study. Most of them
were white Americans with professional careers.
The study results indicate that smokers were more likely to be
unmarried, drink coffee, consume heavy amounts of alcohol, forego exercise and to develop
cancer than nonsmokers.
As an unmarried parent, the legal
status of Elian's father is clouded
A story published today by NewsMax.com points out that when
6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez was born, his mother and father were not married.
What's more, it's not as if his parents split up sometime after he was conceived.
In fact, by the time Elian was born to Elisabeth Brotons-Rodriguez
on December 6, 1993, she had been divorced from Juan Miguel Gonzalez for more than two and
a half years. The couple split legally all the way back on May 13, 1991.
The story says that in her Town Hall.com column, impeachment
superstar-lawyer Ann Coulter contends that the odd timing of Elian's birth could have a
direct bearing on any legal claim Mr. Gonzalez might have over Elian under U.S. law.
"Elian was neither born nor conceived when Juan Miguel was
married to his mother," Coulter notes. Nor did the father ever rectify Elian's
out-of-wedlock birth status.
According to Coulter, at common law, fathers had absolutely no
rights with respect to any children they bore out of wedlock. Even in contemporary
America, a father's legal rights to a child born out of wedlock remains a highly
contentious, and prodigiously litigated, matter.
Coulter claims that if Elian's case were treated like any other
custody case, the Florida courts would decide. She says that Florida takes an especially
dim view of the legal prerogatives of fathers who were not married to the mother of their
children when the child was born.
US Air contract eliminates
'marriage penalty' in pension survivor benefits plan
A story released today by PR Newswire reports that US Airways flight
attendants, members of the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, overwhelmingly
ratified their new contract today with over 78% of the valid ballots returned voting
"FOR" the agreement.
One of the provisions of the contract would create a new formula in
the pension plan so that surviving spouses would continue to receive pension survivor
benefits even if they remarry, thereby removing what has been called a "marriage
penalty." Such penalties often are cited by seniors who choose to live together as
domestic partners rather than remarry and lose their survivor benefits.