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





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


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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 fault."

"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 married heterosexuals.

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 programs

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 marriage.

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 popularity.

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 the pill.

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 report.

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 proceedings.

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 him.

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 ruling.

DNA testing raises new dilemmas for fatherhood

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. Wise.

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 Washington.

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 marriage.

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 century.

"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 Oregon.

"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.


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