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U.S. News Archive
July 28 - July 31, 2000





This page contains news for the period July 28, 2000 through July 31, 2000.


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Sunday, July 30, 2000

Marriage penalty reductions bill does nothing for single taxpayers

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times analyzes the marriage penalty reduction bill passed recently by Congress and concludes that the bill will not help single taxpayers in any manner.

President Clinton promises to veto the bill unless Congress also sends him a Medicare benefits bill.

The story says that an analysis by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that the biggest beneficiaries of the marriage penalty reduction bill would be middle-and-lower-income families with simple tax returns, who could see a double-digit percentage decline in the amount of federal income taxes they pay.

Though the bill did not pass by a "veto-proof" margin, the congressional vote was strong enough to override a veto if a relative handful of legislators changed their votes to support the measure. In the House, roughly 20 additional votes would be needed to get the two-thirds majority required; in the Senate, six more votes could put the measure over the top. That gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to influence the outcome by making their views known, particularly in an election year.

The story points out that the bill does absolutely nothing to help single people. Like many of the tax breaks passed in recent years, this bill is "targeted." Only married couples would benefit.

If someone feels strongly that the bill should--or should not--pass, they can contact the president and their Congress member. Legislators are listed in the government section of the local telephone directory. The White House can be reached by phone at (202) 456-1414, by mail at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500, or via the Internet at http://www.whitehouse.gov.


Saturday, July 29, 2000

Three-quarters of Republican conventioneers are married

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that 75 percent of delegates to the Republican National Convention are married -- a much higher percent than the general adult population of which 60% are married.

Speakers at the convention will address a crowd of overwhelmingly white, predominantly male, and mostly middle-aged and married delegates.

"These are the activists' activists. They are the cream of the crop of the people who run the party,'' said Larry Sabato, a government professor at the University of Virginia. "The delegation is not a mirror of America, it's a mirror of the elite in America.''

The story says that about 83 percent of the GOP delegates convening here are white, with nearly a dozen states sending delegations that are completely white, The Associated Press found in interviews with 1,837 of the 2,066 delegates. Another 4 percent are black, 1.3 percent Asian, 0.8 percent mixed race and 0.4 percent Native American. The rest did not answer the question. About 3 percent, included in racial categories, said they were Hispanic.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 82 percent of America's population is white, 13 percent black, 4 percent Asian and 0.9 percent Native American.

At the GOP convention, men make up 61 percent of the delegates, women 34 percent, with the rest unknown. America's population is about evenly divided between men and women.

The delegates are well-educated, with about 71 percent having graduated from college and half of that group having taken postgraduate work.

The average delegate age is 47.

Most of the delegates, 70 percent, oppose civil union rights and benefits for gay couples. Only 6 percent said a state's marriage laws should provide such rights.

College student suspended for co-ed living

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that a Brigham Young University student who appeared on MTV's Real World has been suspended from the school.

Julie Stoffer, a business major from Delafield, Wis., spent five months being filmed for the reality TV show in which she lived with four men and two other women in New Orleans.

She was suspended for the fall semester because the school says she broke its honor code. The Mormon school prohibits single students from living with members of the opposite sex.

"This is not a decision if she was a good or bad person. But it is about her commitment to the honour code," BYU spokeswoman Carri P. Jenkins said.

Last month, Stoffer said BYU officials should go by the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.

"I didn't have sex and they have that on tape," Julie said in June.


Friday, July 28, 2000

Modern marriage has lots of change, less commitment

A story published today in the Columbus Dispatch says that modern marriages are quite different than the Ward and June Cleaver portrait of American marriages some 40 years ago.

Today, the picture might find the Cleavers in counseling, divorced or living separate lives with their new companions -- perhaps of the same sex.

But even though the idealized luster of the postwar period that the Cleavers exemplified has dulled and attitudes have changed, marriage still remains popular, experts say.

"Most young people, and older people, want to get married," said Brennan Hill, a theology professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. "And they'll keep getting married until they get it right."

Marriage, as an institution, took root in the natural human need for stability and the protection of children, said Hill, who teaches a course on marriage.

As it evolved as a social structure, it merged with the religious inclinations of humans and came to be expressed in the Bible as something created by God, he said.

Initially, weddings were celebrated as family events and later became formalized in religious rituals, Hill said.

The story says that marriage has evolved into an institution that would be unrecognizable to people 50 years ago, the experts say.

"People today really are marrying more for companionship and intimacy and less likely to marry specifically to fulfill a role, to have children," said Eugene Folden, director of academic studies for the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University.

Men and women are marrying at a later age, said Folden. At the end of World War II, the average age for a man to marry was 20, and 18 for a woman; today, it is 28 for a man and 26 for a woman, he said.

Folden and Hill said many factors have altered the face of marriage:

* Economic changes, particularly the rising number of dual-income households, as well as growing consumerism.

* The changing role of women in society.

* Closer involvement of parents with their children.

* A more equitable sharing of household duties.

* The easier availability of divorce.

The story says that amid those changes, however, some aspects have been constant.

Jerrold Lazerwitz, director of clinical services at Jewish Family Services, said that today many of the same problem categories remain in marriages as when he started counseling couples nearly 30 years ago: intimacy, respect, anger and balancing of chores.

But money, he said, has become the greatest irritant in marriages.

"There's much more of a desire to be extremely wealthy, quick," he said. "That's why programs like (Who Wants to be a) Millionaire on television have that incredible audience, because it's the dream."

The desire for wealth creates tension as couples work more and spend less time together and become impatient if their bank accounts don't grow fast enough, he said.

The story emphasizes how modern marriages lack the level of commitment that older generations of married couples once took for granted.

As marriage has retained its popularity, divorce rates have risen. About half of all marriages today are expected to break up.

"But the reason for that appears not to be that people aren't taking marriage seriously," Folden said. "It appears to be that people expect more out of marriage than marriage can deliver."

Hill said part of the reason for failed marriages is a lack of fidelity caused by today's more liberal attitudes about sex.

Younger people also have trouble with commitment, he said.

Hill said those growing up during and shortly after World War II "could say, 'forever.' You just took it for granted that it was forever."

"The younger people you talk to today, they have experienced so much change. They haven't experienced anything that hasn't changed," Hill said.

"They have no idea what the future is, and it's so difficult for them to say, 'forever,' or make a commitment because they don't know what it's going to be like tomorrow."

Amy Desai, a marriage and family analyst with the Rev. James Dobson's conservative group Focus on the Family, said the rush to divorce was pushed by no-fault laws in the early 1970s that made it easier for spouses to walk away.

"The people who started the 'no-fault' divorce revolution certainly were well-intentioned," Desai said. "They were looking at trying to make marriages better by allowing people to leave miserable marriages. But it actually had the opposite effect."

One result of wariness about marriage is that cohabitation -- especially among those who have experienced divorce -- is increasing, said Dorian Solot, executive director of the Alternatives to Marriage Project.

"People are realistic these days about the fact that marriage doesn't offer guarantees," said Solot, whose national organization's headquarters are in Boston.

"People are trying to create relationships in really conscious ways that work for them, and not necessarily signing up for an institution that may or may not represent what they want for their relationships."

Solot said more than 11 million Americans live with an unmarried partner. The number is growing, she said, because many people feel less need to be married and feel less stigma attached to cohabitation.

Folden said living together today is different than the "shacking up" craze of the free-love 1960s, which many frowned upon for moral reasons.

Now, he said, most cohabitants are young people who see it as a part of the marriage process.

The research on cohabitation is mixed, Folden said. Some data show that people who live together before marriage have stronger relationships, while other studies conclude the divorce rate among ex-cohabitants is the same as for the general population.

Solot contested the idea that cohabitation is detrimental to children.

"I think the most important thing for kids is that they have loving parents who are there for them in their lives, and that the marital status is not the important factor," she said.

With so many factors at work, more changes are in store for marriage, the experts predict.

Attorney Piper said climbing divorce rates have created more blended families with children. In turn, prenuptial agreements are becoming more common, in many cases to protect the financial interests of children from previous marriages.

Lazerwitz said couples seem to be turning away from divorce as the first solution to problems. He said more spouses -- especially men -- want to make a go of it.

"Couples are rolling up their sleeves," he said. "They're saying, 'Yeah, we have problems, but we also have history and we have children and we have a lot that's worthwhile.' And rather than embellish the negative, they're trying to improve what they have that's healthy."

There is a consensus among experts that people will continue to marry at a later age; many dual-income couples will exist; families will be smaller; and duties in the home will be shared more equally.

Beyond the apparent trends lie many unanswered questions about the future of marriage.

"I think society is still trying to define what marriage is," Folden said. "Without a clear definition, I think there's variability."

Hill said one answer will emerge from younger people who have witnessed so much family turmoil. When their time to marry comes, will they move toward or away from the traditional because of their experiences?

Desai said she believes traditional marriage will remain strong. Divorce rates have been leveling off, she said, and in states such as Oklahoma and Arkansas, public efforts to strengthen marriages have begun.


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