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U.S. News Archive
August 21 - August 27, 2000





This page contains news for the period August 21, 2000 through August 27, 2000.


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Sunday, August 27, 2000

Single voters being ignored by presidential contenders

A story published today in the New York Times focuses on the recurring problem of presidential candidates ignoring single and unmarried voters as they send constant messages to the public about families and parents.  Here is the article.

The family values platform has been the stomping ground of Republicans for so long that there has been little room for the Democrats. But last week, riding a wave of strong polls following his family-friendly speech at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Vice President Al Gore reiterated his intention to make families, particularly "working families," the focus of his campaign. Mr. Gore projected himself as a devoted husband and father who understands that all families want the same opportunities for their children.

But where does all the talk about parents leave unmarried, childless voters, a group that has supported the Democratic Party by a strong majority in recent years? The risk is that such appeals will keep this block at home, including single women, a group that has been growing since 1970.

According to polls by the Voter News Service, a consortium of television networks and The Associated Press, single adults made up 34 percent of voters in 1996. These voters have supported the Democratic candidate for president in significantly larger percentages than married voters have in every presidential election since 1980.

Both political parties have directed appeals particularly to mothers by stressing certain issues like education, gun control and health care. But they have virtually ignored unmarried women. The percentage of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who had never married doubled from 35.8 percent in 1970 to 70.3 percent in 1997. During that same period, the percentage of never-married women increased nearly fourfold in the 25-to-29 age group.

Time just proclaimed that single women have moved to the center of national social and cultural life from a position of obscurity. Yet in the political landscape they are still invisible.

Mr. Gore chose his oldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, to nominate him for president at the convention.

He sent a message: his role as a father is one of the most important criteria that qualify him for president. Although Ms. Schiff has been an adviser to her father, she became a more visible member of his campaign only after she married and became a mother. In his convention speech Mr. Gore invoked family no fewer than 50 times. On the other hand, Mr. Bush, the Republican candidate, used it only six times.

When Mr. Gore announced his candidacy in June 1999, he used family 25 times. Delivering the commencement speech at Harvard University in 1994, he said: "I believe in finding fulfillment in family, for the family is the true center of a meaningful life. Cynics may say: All families are confining and ultimately dysfunctional; the very idea of family is outdated and unworkable. But the cynics are wrong. It is in our families that we learn to love."

But with the single lifestyle becoming increasingly popular, particularly among women, Mr. Gore's family focus may alienate those who are trying to take pride in what has been seen as a less than ideal choice in a society that values marriage and childbearing highly.

Mr. Gore's national spokesman, Doug Hattaway, said many of the issues Mr. Gore addresses, like prescription benefits, appeal to all people, including those "who are not yet parents." Implicit is perhaps the assumption that the childless and single will one day become parents, that they are responsive to a message that focuses on families.

In fact, that is often true. Still not everyone is destined for parenthood. "In every society there are people who never marry and live a contented life," said David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

Why do politicians often ignore this huge group of voters? This rather large and amorphous body does not define itself as a group; the voters in it are also often folded into other target demographic categories, including younger voters, ethnic groups, divorced people, widowers and those older adults who have never married.

"A lot of the groups we look at are groups that we've heard campaigns are targeting," said Jeffrey M. Jones, managing editor of the Gallup Poll. "Single voters are a group that's never really been talked about."

It is difficult to obtain data on unmarried voters, probably because they have not yet emerged as a lobby, although the lobbying branch of the American Association for Single People, a California-based organization that promotes the rights of unmarried people, is planning a national advertising campaign directed at unmarried voters who feel underserved by the political process.

Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the association, says that he has been struggling for decades to secure equal rights for single people and to enlist organizations like the National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union to promote the inclusion of marital status as a nondiscrimination category in proposed civil rights legislation.

"Single people feel that they're being ignored or discounted," Mr.Coleman said. "It certainly doesn't make you feel very motivated to go out and vote."

President Clinton skillfully appealed both to people with families and to those who are alone. In his 1996 speech he stressed working families, too, but welcomed anyone who wanted to be part of a larger American family.

Marriage licensing advice bill goes to California Governor

A story published today in the Los Angeles Times reports that a bill sponsored by area Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson that would require a marriage fact sheet to be distributed to potential brides and grooms before they tie the knot is awaiting the governor's signature.

Gov. Gray Davis has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bill, which passed in both houses of the Legislature last week.

The law would require California county clerks to offer all those seeking a marriage license a list of the legal principles surrounding matrimony, including information about how the legal bond affects property rights, debt payment, spousal and child support, and pension rights.

Jackson, who worked as a family law attorney before being elected to the Assembly, says that many couples don't understand the legal implications of a marriage contract before they wed.

Davis vetoed a similar bill last fall, saying the warning is unnecessary. However, he said he would support a measure requiring the state to develop a fact sheet but not making its distribution mandatory.

The new bill requires county clerks to offer the information but does not require couples to accept it.

The information would be given out along with health information already distributed with the license.


Friday, August 25, 2000

Congress sends Clinton bill to phase out death taxes

A story published today in the Washington Times reports that Congress sent a bill to President Clinton yesterday which would phase out and eventually repeal estate and gift taxes.  Clinton has vowed to veto it.

The Senate's oldest member, Strom Thurmond, 97, South Carolina Republican, set the stage for a pre-election veto by signing the party's centerpiece measure during a brief Capitol Hill ceremony.

"Mr. President, don't veto this bill," Mr. Thurmond said as he shook his fists in the air. The president made clear he would not listen to Mr. Thurmond.

Getting the bill — dubbed the "death tax" — to the White House involved a bit of theater. To drive home their message that the Republican-backed bill eliminates a tax that hurts farmers and owners of small businesses, Montana rancher Lynn Cornwell drove a farm tractor through busy Washington streets to deliver the bill to the White House.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert highlighted the proposed tax cut during an appearance at a Columbia, S.C., farmer's market.

"This unfair tax is so steep that sometimes the deceased owner's children must break up a farm or sell a business just to cover the tax," said Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican. "Your children should not have to sell what you worked your whole life to produce."

Many Democrats agree with Republicans that the measure places an undue burden on family-owned farms and small businesses. Even if no or few taxes are paid, the cost in time and effort to prepare for the possibility is a massive drain on the economy, they argue.

The measure passed 279-136 in the House on June 9 and 59-39 in the Senate on July 15, but Mr. Clinton already has said he would veto the measure. "If the president snubs hard-working Americans and vetoes this bill, we will vote to override his veto," Mr. Armey said.

A poll taken last month by Gallup showed that 60 percent of Americans favored a "proposal that would eliminate all inheritance taxes on estates over $1 million," while 35 percent
said they opposed it.

The inheritance tax is due on estate assets worth more than $10,000 at rates beginning at 18 percent. Taxes reach a peak marginal rate of 55 percent on assets worth more than $3 million. But with a substantial estate-tax credit, no taxes are due on individual estates worth less than $675,000.  Assets may be left to a spouse without any tax imposed at all.

The Republican bill, over the next 10 years, would phase out the entire estate tax.

Thursday, August 24, 2000

Massachusetts Supreme Court asked to invalidate the state's sodomy law

A story published in the most recent issue of Bay Windows reports that a lawsuit has been filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) seeking to have the Massachusetts sodomy law declared unconstitutional.   Several gay and heterosexual plaintiffs are participating in the case.

John Doe is a Suffolk County resident who has been arrested and charged for breaking the state's archaic sex laws, which include prohibitions on sodomy. The charge now appears on his Criminal Offender Information records and is subject to public release, which could expose him to harm in both his personal and professional life.

Mark Merante and Adrien Saks, also from Suffolk County, have maintained a committed relationship for the past five years. Yet, they continue to face the threat of being arrested, charged and prosecuted for violating the state laws that prohibit sodomy. Being a licensed attorney in the state, an arrest and prosecution could interfere with Merante's ability to retain and renew his license to practice law.

Sue Hyde is a Cambridge resident and a lesbian who has been with her partner for 15 years. She and her partner are now receiving domestic-partnership (DP) benefits through their city's DP program that is now being challenged in court partially based on the existence of the sodomy laws. Not only does Hyde face the threat of being arrested, but she also faces the threat of losing her DP benefits if the sodomy laws remain in place.

Named defendants in the case are Attorney General Thomas Reilly, as chief law enforcement officer in the state; Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley and Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph Martin, who are responsible for enforcing the laws.

Hyde and the others claim in court papers that they are being denied their rights to privacy, free speech and equal protection guaranteed by the state Constitution. In addition, the suit claims the plaintiffs could face excessive punishment for violating the laws at hand if they are not overturned, which in turn would violate their rights to be free from "cruel and unusual punishment," as guaranteed in the state Constitution.

"We filed the case at this point in time for various reasons. First is that GLAD has heard about a number of individuals being charged with Section 34, the 20-year felony, in the past year. Second, with the recent legislative repeal of Rhode Island's sodomy prohibition, Massachusetts is the remaining New England state with such a law. Third, we believe that the trend around the country, striking [similar] state laws, suggests the time is right to bring this challenge," said GLAD staff attorney Jennifer Levi.

The story says that Massachusetts is only one of 17 states, and the only remaining New England state, which now criminalizes acts of sodomy, including oral and anal sex. Gay activists have long contended the laws are enforced primarily against gay and lesbian individuals but have been unsuccessful at overturning the laws in the state Legislature.


Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Nebraska voters will decide whether to ban gay marriage and domestic partnership

A story published in the Lincoln Star Journal today reports that Nebraska voters apparently will decide this November whether to ban same-sex marriages.

Thirty-three other states already ban same-sex marriage, but Nebraska's proposed measure would be the only one to also ban other arrangements between same-sex and other unmarried partners.

The proposed constitutional amendment reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska."

California makes progress in establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents

A story releases today by PRNewswire reports that the State of California has established paternity for more than 500,000 children born to unmarried parents since January 1995, a new milestone for the State Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), Director Curt Child announced today.

"Establishing paternity at birth is critical to the emotional development, identity and economic security of a child," said Child, who said California accounts for more than 25 percent of the total paternity declarations filed nationwide. Child credits DCSS' voluntary Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) with making California the national leader in establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents, accounting for more than 30 percent of the voluntary paternity acknowledgments filed in the United States in 1998.

POP is a hospital-based, voluntary program for unmarried fathers who wish to declare paternity of their children. An unmarried father's name may not appear on the birth certificate of his child without a POP declaration or court order.

POP also allows fathers who do not establish paternity at the birth of their children to sign a declaration later at local child support or other cooperating agencies.

Currently, fathers of more than 80 percent of the children born
outside of marriage in California use POP to establish paternity. Paternity declarations assist the DCSS in child support cases.

POP declarations are expected to grow more than 140,000 each year and will exceed a million by the end of 2003, according to Child.


Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Prenuptial agreements get high court approval in California

A story published today in the Los Angeles Times reports that   the California Supreme Court yesterday said prenuptial pacts
can be enforced even if only one of the parties had a lawyer during the signing and even if the pact waived spousal support.

The court unanimously upheld the premarital agreement between San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds and his ex-wife, the former Sun Branco. The baseball player had two lawyers and a financial advisor during signing. Branco, a Swedish immigrant, had only a friend from Sweden and said she had been told that the wedding the next day would be canceled unless she signed the agreement, which sharply limited how much money she could obtain if the two divorced.

In a separate 6-1 ruling, the court also said there is no public policy against prenuptial agreements that waive alimony in a divorce. Previously, most family law attorneys believed such waivers would not be enforceable.

The two decisions sent a message to lower courts that premarital contracts cannot be set aside lightly. The rulings probably will lead to even more such contracts in California, lawyers said.

Already, tens of thousands of couples in California have prenuptial agreements, and the number has been steadily growing, according to lawyers. Once primarily sought by older, previously married men who were marrying younger women, the pacts are now becoming more common even in first marriages.

‘The courts are going to take a practical look at how these things work and let people make contracts they think are appropriate to their lives when they get married,‘ said Ventura lawyer Wendy C. Lascher, who represented one of the litigants before the high court.

‘No public policy is violated by permitting enforcement of a waiver of spousal support executed by intelligent, well-educated persons, each of whom have the advice of counsel regarding their rights and obligations,‘ Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote for the court.

Justice Joyce L. Kennard dissented, contending that the Legislature had decided not to permit waivers of alimony. ‘An agreement equitable at the time of the marriage may later become inequitable and unjust,‘ Kennard wrote.

The earning ability of a spouse may change drastically during a marriage because of children, a move to a new location or health problems, she noted.

A waiver of alimony can still be challenged as ‘unjust,‘ Baxter countered.


Monday, August 21, 2000

Voters sharply split on whether Gore or Bush best understands the concerns of single people

A story published today by Reuters reports that a recent poll shows a deep division among voters as to whether Al Gore or George Bush has a better understanding of the needs and concerns of single people.  There is more agreement, however, on which candidate best understands the concerns of married couples with children.

The Reuters/Zogby poll of 1,004 likely voters conducted for Reuters Friday through Sunday by pollster John Zogby also found Gore leading Bush, the governor of Texas, 44-41 percent. With a three percentage point margin of error, the race was technically a statistical dead heat.

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader polled 5 percent and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had 2 percent with 7 percent still unsure. In a two-man matchup, the results were similar: Gore led 47-43 percent.

For the first time, Gore was winning 80 percent support from Democrats -- around the same as Bush was gaining from Republicans. Gore was three points ahead among independent voters.

Bush led by nine points among men but Gore was 14 points ahead among women. The vice president also led by nine points among Hispanic voters and took three quarters of the black vote but Bush led by six points among whites.

Asked which candidate best understood the problems of married people with children, 41 percent said Gore and 29 percent said Bush. Asked which understood the problems of single people, 39 percent said Gore and 27 percent said Bush.


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