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U.S. News Archive
June 28 - June 30, 2000





This page contains news for the period June 28, 2000 through June 30, 2000.


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Friday, June 30, 2000

Young single men must pay more in California's low-income car insurance program

A story filed today by the Associated Press reports that while some are happy that California will be offering a low-cost auto insurance policy, all young single men will be hit with a high-risk rate because of their marital status.

A plan to reduce the number of uninsured motorists by lowering premiums in Los Angeles and San Francisco begins Saturday with civic leaders across the nation watching to see if it could work elsewhere.

The program, which was approved by the Legislature last year, will be run by the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, a coalition of insurance companies. The agency can find car insurance for problem drivers who would have difficulty getting it otherwise.

Officials from Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey have asked for data on whether significant numbers of people sign up for the plan. Also watching are Washington, Kentucky and Louisiana, which have considered similar programs, CAARP regional director Richard Manning said.

California's proof-of-insurance law requires owners of the state's nearly 27 million vehicles to show they have coverage when they register with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

But in high-risk, inner-city areas, many residents risk illegally driving without insurance rather than pay premiums that can run three times as much as those offered in the pilot program.

Nearly 1.8 million vehicles out of 6 million in Los Angeles lack insurance and nearly 80,000 out of 412,000 in San Francisco, according to Tim Hart, spokesman for the state Insurance Department.

Participants must have clean driving records and meet income and other guidelines to be eligible for the four-year pilot program. It charges $450 annually for a bare-bones auto policy in Los Angeles County and $410 in the San Francisco area. There is a 25 percent surcharge for unmarried, male drivers 19 to 25.

The low-cost policies satisfy the minimum amount of auto insurance required by the state, but will not pay drivers for injury to themselves or damage to their own cars, regardless of who caused the accident.

But participating in this program will enable them to collect pain and suffering settlements if another driver is at fault, which uninsured motorists are prohibited from doing under a 1996 state law.

The benefits of the policies include $10,000 in liability for one person's medical bills, as much as $20,000 to cover more than one person and $3,000 for damage.


Thursday, June 29, 2000

Marriage movement leaders issue a manifesto; rival movement issues family diversity statement

A story published today in USA Today reports that a grass-roots ''marriage movement'' has thrown down a gauntlet in front of those it says have fostered a ''culture of divorce.''

More than 100 members of the broad-based coalition -- which includes some of the nation's most noted researchers on marriage, as well as clergy, judges, divorce lawyers, marriage counselors, sociologists and policy wonks -- are issuing The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles. It blasts the effects of divorce and calls for a national commitment to marriage.

The 35-page document, presented today at the Denver conference of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE), is already under attack by critics.

The statement calls for wide-ranging changes from virtually all segments of society. One of the principal writers, Maggie Gallagher of the American Institute for Family Values, says it will ''mark a historic turn in the family values debate.''

The document makes a hefty list of recommendations, including reconsidering no-fault divorce laws, supporting marriage over living together, and promoting alternative ''covenant'' marriages that make divorce more difficult.

The statement is sponsored by CMFCE, the Institute for American Values, and the Religion, Culture and Family Project at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values and author of Fatherless America, is one of the architects of the statement. He expects it to become a bible of the marriage movement, which supports marriages with ''equal dignity between men and women,'' he says.

The marriage movement can point to many successes, including Florida becoming the first state to mandate marriage and relationship skills training in high schools (1998), covenant marriage laws in Louisiana (1997) and Arizona (1998), and the use of leftover welfare funds in Oklahoma to support marriage initiatives (2000).

The drive also has suffered defeats, including the veto by Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura of legislation that would have reduced marriage license fees for those taking pre-marriage counseling. He cited ''unnecessary government intervention'' and discrimination against those who don't sign up.

As the movement has gained steam, it has picked up its share of skeptics.

Mike Bowers, executive director of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, says reality today includes single parents, the divorced and stepfamilies. ''We have to create policies that deal with what we have.'' He also cautions, ''We know that black-or-white thinking can get couples into trouble. There is no reason to believe it cannot get society into trouble.''

Marianne Walters of Washington, D.C.'s Family Therapy Practice Center wonders why the marriage movement is not championing gay couples who wish to marry.

Don Bloch, past president of the American Family Therapy Academy, objects to using welfare funds for marriage initiatives rather than single mothers.

Constance Ahrons is a family therapist and author of The Good Divorce. She has one bone of contention with the movement. ''I am not in favor of making divorce harder as a way to save marriage,'' she says. ''History tells us it is negative to keep kids bound up in the bad marriage of their parents.''

Two of the more vocal critics are Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot, founders of the Alternatives to Marriage Project. Miller and Solot are also members of the American Association for Single People.

Solot says the marriage movement wants ''to have it both ways. They say they don't want to stigmatize the divorced. But it is hard to simultaneously say marriage is so important without making all those unmarrieds wonder if they are good enough.''

Her project is releasing today its own ''statement of family diversity'' available at its Web site, www.unmarried.org. More than 50 experts critical of some aspect of the marriage movement have signed.

The marriage movement's new statement does address three common criticisms made against it:

  • The belief nothing can be done to stop divorce. The correct response, used against problems from drunken driving to domestic violence, is ''not fatalistic acceptance, but action,'' the statement says.
  • The fear of hurting single parents. This is not a movement ''of the smug marrieds for the smug marrieds.'' Many participants, the statement says, have been divorced.
  • Marriage is a private business. Divorce is costly to society, the statement says. Good marriages are ''most likely to be made in a society that understands and values marriage as a shared aspiration and key social institution, not just a private affair of the heart.''

Bush praises marriage movement

A story published today by PRNewswire reports that Governor George Bush and his wife released a letter today and Mrs. Bush praising the men and women "who have heard the call to strengthen this vital institution.

The Marriage Movement is a national group whose mission is to strengthen the institution of marriage. Governor and Mrs. Bush's letter was released in conjunction with the 4th Annual Smart Marriages Conference being held today in Denver, CO.

The following is the letter released by Governor and Mrs. Bush:

"We commend the men and women of The Marriage Movement who have heard the call to strengthen this vital institution. Strengthening marriage will help families and children, build up civil society, boost opportunity, and spread social equality.

"Research confirms that marriage benefits spouses, their children, and society. Children, in particular, benefit from being raised in a two-parent family. Through this family structure, children have direct access to the emotional, spiritual, educational, and financial resources of both parents. We are both grateful beneficiaries of strong marriages between and loving and committed parents, and we work every day to try to give the same gift of unconditional love to our daughters.

"Today's popular culture -- and even government policies -- have devalued family and the importance of marriage. Children in single-parent homes are more likely to live in poverty, have problems at school, bear children out of wedlock, and fall victim to the lure of illegal drugs and other risky behavior. These children face tougher challenges in every area of life and at every stage. As a society, we face few greater challenges than to ensure that more of America's children are raised by mothers and fathers in strong, healthy marriages.

"Being a single parent is one of the toughest jobs in America, and we salute those parents. Ours should be a society that offers them as much support as possible. We must also be a society that prizes marriage, the backbone of the family, and that helps more marriages succeed.

"We believe cultures change one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. Each of us must commit to restoring a pro-marriage culture in America. None of us can be content with merely slowing or stopping the decline in unmarried fatherhood; we must mobilize every sector of society -- civic, faith-based, business, education, media, entertainment, health, and others -- to reverse it and strengthen marriage.

"We strongly support the important efforts you are undertaking to strengthen the sacred and vital institution of marriage and to support families."

Neither Bush or his primary political rival, Al Gore, has uttered a word about the problem of marital status discrimination, nor have they praised advocates and activists who promote equal rights for all unmarried adults, whether single, divorced, or widowed.


Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Dr. Joycelyn Elders to keynote 4th National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders will give the keynote speech at the fourth National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality July 5-7 at the Howard University School of Divinity, 1400 Shepherd St., N.E., Washington, D.C.

Several hundred ministers, church leaders, health professionals, youth and others working to "break the silence" about addressing sexuality issues in the Black church will tackle topics such as reducing teen pregnancy, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and developing a dialogue on sexual orientations at the summit which is titled, "Breaking the Silence: Education, Advocacy, and Ministry in the New Millennium."

Elders, who served as the U.S. Surgeon General from 1993 to 1995, has worked during her career to change the behaviors and attitudes of Americans through innovative health programs and policies. A retired pediatric endocrinologist, she continues to be a voice for adequate health care for the poor powerless. She will speak at the 10:45 a.m. plenary session, Thursday, July 6, following a 10 a.m. press conference with clergy and other summit participants.

The National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality is sponsored by the Black Church Initiative, (BCI), a multicultural program of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Since the Initiative started four years ago, Black churches have trained ministers, educators and parents about sexuality issues, started faith-based sexuality education for teens, and taken the first steps in speaking about sexuality from the pulpit.

More than 800 youth have participated in the groundbreaking BCI curriculum, "Keeping It Real! A Faith-Based Model for Teen Dialogue on Sex and Sexuality," in churches across the country.

"We are on the cutting edge of revolutionizing Christian education in the Black church," said Rev. Carlton Veazey, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice president and CEO and founder of the Black Church Initiative. "The church, a pillar of the African American community, is finding practical ways to move out of its reluctance to talk realistically and compassionately about sexuality issues. Clergy have a new willingness to break traditional taboos about preaching and teaching about sexuality."

"We are especially pleased to have Dr. Elders participate in this year's summit because she has been in the forefront of advocating change in attitudes and behaviors surrounding sexual health and education," Veazey added.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, sponsor of the Summit, comprises more than 40 national organizations from 16 denominations and faith traditions. All coalition programs seek to give clear voice to the reproductive issues of people of color, low-income individuals and families, youth and other underserved populations.

GOP bill to ease taxes on married couples passes Senate committee

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a Republican-sponsored bill cutting income taxes by $248 billion over 10 years for all married couples, including the 25 million who now pay more than they would if single, was approved Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee.

GOP sponsors described the measure, more expansive than a $182 billion version passed by the House, as the centerpiece of their election-year tax cut strategy. Republican leaders intend to bring the bill to the Senate floor in July.

"This bill is fair, this bill is responsible and this bill is pro-family,'' said Sen. William Roth, R-Del., chairman of the Finance Committee. ``It is time that we divorce the marriage penalty from the tax code once and for all.''

After previously issuing veto threats, President Clinton now says the budget surplus is projected to be large enough that he could sign the bill into law -- but only if Congress also sends him an acceptable

Medicare prescription drug bill. Republicans are inviting a confrontation with the White House if they insist on sending the president the tax cut as a stand-alone bill.

"It would be better if we could all agree on a marriage penalty bill and prescription drugs,'' said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "I'm not sure it's going to happen.''

The House was debating a GOP prescription drug measure Wednesday. Roth said he intended to bring a bipartisan bill before his committee in July.

The tax bill would gradually enlarge the 15 percent and 28 percent income tax brackets between 2002 and 2007 for married couples and raise their standard deduction in 2001 so that it is equal to twice that of single filers.

This would eliminate a disparity in the tax code in which about 25 million two-earner married couples pay higher income taxes than if they remained single. But it would also give a big tax cut to millions of other married couples in which one spouse earns most of the family income that do not pay the penalty.

"This bill masquerades as marriage penalty relief,'' said Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev. "It is certainly much more.''

The legislation also would increase by $2,500 the limit for couples who claim the earned income tax credit and permanently ensure that taxpayers who claim personal credits such as the $500 per child tax credit do not get snared by the complex alternative minimum tax.

Democrats said they, too, favor eliminating the marriage penalty tax and pushed an alternative sponsored by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., that would give married couples the option of filing as two single people on the same return. But that was rejected on an 11-9 vote by the Finance Committee, which later approved the GOP bill 10-5.

The bill is identical to a measure approved this spring by the Finance Committee, but blocked on the Senate floor by Democrats' delaying tactics. This time, the measure was approved under special budget rules that limit debate and prevent a filibuster that would otherwise require 60 votes to break.

Voters changing attitudes cause Republicans to reevaluate hard conservative line

A story published today by the Washington Post Service reports that a right-wing social agenda no longer serves the Republican Party the way it once did. Times have changed and so have the views of most voters.

Southern Texas has come to epitomize a central tension within the Republican Party: between those who see politics as a struggle between good and evil, and those who see politics as negotiation and compromise.

Many voters in these parts share the view of their representative in Congress, Tom DeLay, the House majority whip, that the country is in the middle of a moral and cultural war, torn between a corrupt liberalism and a besieged conservatism struggling to sustain traditional values.

Over the last 30 years, this hard-line view was crucial to building a competitive Republican coalition, helping to expand the traditional pro-business constituency to encompass white working-class and middle-class voters angered at a Democratic Party they saw as controlled by minorities, feminists, gays and advocates of defendants' rights.

The story points out that in recent years such an ultra-conservative view, voiced most often by the Christian Right and its allies, has become a liability for much of the Republican Party, according to many political strategists of both parties.

Nationally, the Texas governor and presidential candidate, George W. Bush, is determined to set a course that will retain the loyalty of the Republican base of intensely conservative and religious voters, while carefully avoiding alienating those who are hostile to moral absolutes and far more comfortable with tolerance than with fire and brimstone.

''When you ask voters what their values are, the overwhelming majority hold values more closely associated with the Republican Party: the work ethic, individual responsibility and respect for the family,'' a Republican strategist said.

''What can kill us,'' the strategist said, ''is just one other value, tolerance. You can be right on everything else, but if you're seen as intolerant, you're dead.''

Bush's ''compassionate conservatism'' seeks to avoid the polarizing dimension of the conservative Republican movement that reached its zenith with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.

Bush is ''on the side of change, not of revolution,'' a key supporter of Bush said. The core of the Republican insurgency was a ''confrontation with a failed liberal elite that started with a negative,'' he added.

DeLay is convinced that he is on the winning side in a cultural Armageddon. But Democrats and centrist Republicans cite a growing body of evidence suggesting strong public antipathy to judgmental politicians.

DeLay's confidence also runs counter to findings showing a shift in public opinion toward the liberal position on a host of key issues for the social right, including homosexuality, divorce and premarital sex.

From 1977 to 1997, for example, the percentage of people who believed that ''homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities'' has grown dramatically from 56 to 80, and the percentage who say they should not has dropped from 33 to 14.

Opposition to premarital sex has been the minority position since the 1970s when the survey first asked about sex before marriage.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the percentage of people giving a direct response who said such sex was ''always'' or ''almost always'' wrong declined from 43 to 27, while the percentage saying ''only sometimes'' or "'not at all'' rose from 53 to 73.

Nor is there any longer majority support for the view that marriage vows are permanent.

A decisive 9-to-2 majority said in 1994 that even ''when there are children in the family,'' parents should not feel obliged to maintain their marriage ''if they don't get along.''


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