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U.S. News Archive
October 28 - October 31, 2000
This page contains news for
the period October 28, 2000 through October 31, 2000.
October 2000 >>
Tuesday, October 31, 2000
Researchers meet to discuss unmarried
A story published yesterday in the Daily Collegian,
a campus newspaper at Pennsylvania State University, reports that researchers from across
the country met yesterday and are meeting again today at Pennsylvania State University's
Nittany Lion Inn to speak about cohabitation.
Alan Booth, professor of sociology, human development and demography and Ann Crouter,
professor of human development and family studies, organized "Just Living Together:
Implications of Cohabitation for Children, Families and Social Policy."
The symposium will explore the way informal unions affect family relationships, the
well-being of children in the situation and will focus on policy issues and legal rights
"It is really to pull together some of the best researchers from different
disciplines to discuss what we know about cohabitation and its affect on children and
adults," Crouter said.
The symposium is open to the public and among the attendees will be the Dorian Solot,
co-founder of the Alternatives to Marriage Project.
Solot co-founded the national organization for unmarried people when she and her partner
Marshall Miller decided that marriage was not the path they wanted to follow.
"Early on in our relationship we decided that marriage wasn't what we wanted. We
didn't think it was that big of a deal, but we found out that it was," Miller said.
After they made their decision, they received a lot of pressure to marry, Miller said.
Miller said they had many experiences with discrimination. At one time, a landlord refused
to rent to them because they were not married. Insurance companies refused to give them
"I was very surprised about the amount of discrimination we received. Everywhere we
turned there was pressure to get married. In 1998, we decided we would do something about
it," Solot said.
The organization focuses on three types of couples. First, people that have just chosen
not to marry. Second, same-sex couples and finally, couples that lived together before
marriage and intend to marry.
"I think that marriage is a great option for some people but it's not the best option
for everyone," Solot said. "I'm excited because cohabitation is becoming more
The couple has found that the Alternative to Marriage Project is a particular interest to
Their organization has grown significantly. Cohabitation has increased significantly. More
than 11 million couples in the United States are cohabiting.
They are trying to bring an awareness that there is an option to cohabit and that their
organization offers support to couples who want to take that route.
"We're the organization that comes out and says that discrimination against unmarried
couples is wrong," Miller said. "So far we have gained a lot of interest from
the media and overall the responses have been positive."
A story published today in the Kansas City Star
reports that a Missouri appeals court ruled Tuesday that unmarried people may sue sexual
partners who give them herpes. This is the first such ruling in the state.
Missouri court says herpes disclosure required between
unmarried sex partners
The appeals court in Kansas City said that people who know they have the sexually
transmitted disease must tell their partners. The panel's decision extended the same
rights to unmarried couples that a 1986 case gave to married couples.
Tuesday's ruling sends the case of a Columbia woman back for trial in Boone County, where
a judge dismissed her lawsuit last year.
The lawsuit is against a Columbia man in his 20s who the plaintiff contends gave her
herpes and genital warts two years ago. The defendant denied the allegations. Herpes is
treatable, but not curable.
Dan J. Pingelton, attorney for the plaintiff, said his client was infected at age 19 in
her first love affair. The lawsuit cites extreme physical and emotional pain and seeks
unspecified actual and punitive damages.
The defendant knew he had herpes and did not tell, Pingelton said.
"He owed her a duty like I owe you a duty not to hurt you when I drive down the
road," Pingelton said. He said the ruling applies to herpes cases, but future cases
could extend the decision to other sexually transmitted diseases.
Samantha A. Harris, who represents the defendant, said she would consider an appeal. The
ruling could lead to a flood of lawsuits, she said.
"If you can sue for damages from casual sex and casual dating," she said,
"it's really going to get interesting."
Harris also had argued the plaintiff assumed the dangers of sex and therefore she did not
have a claim. The woman did not ask if her partner had a disease when they started the
relationship, Harris noted.
Pingelton said many other states allow such lawsuits, and the appeals court relied on
rulings in California, Alabama and Minnesota. He could find no case law in Kansas.
According to Medical experts said it can often be difficult for people to prove who gave
them herpes and when. Many who have it do not know, experts said, because the disease
hardly appears at all in some cases and can remain dormant for years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that about 45 million
people nationwide have sexually transmitted herpes and about 1 million more get it each
According to a story published in the most recent
issue of LGNY, a federal appeals court has reinstated a criminal law prohibiting the sale
of sex toys to adults. The court overturned an earlier ruling by a federal district
court judge which found the statute unconstitutional.
The appeals court suggested, however, that married
people might have a constitutional rights to use sex toys, and so it remanded the case for
a further hearing on that issue. But for singles in Alabama -- they will have to go
out of state to buy such a toy.
The state successfully argued that it has a
legitimate interest in attempting to discourage "autonomous" sexual expression
-- that is, masturbation. It appears that Alabama fears that people who buy sex toys may
waste their precious bodily fluids, which need to be preserved for more productive uses.
No sex toys for singles in Alabama
In 1998, Alabama amended its obscenity law to add a ban on the distribution or sale of
"any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human
genital organs for any thing of pecuniary value." Several sellers of such items,
together with two married women who used them as marital sex aids, filed suit with the
assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the constitutionality of
this law. The plaintiffs were successful last year in persuading U.S. District Judge C.
Lynwood Smith, Jr. that the law was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process Clause because the state had advanced no rational basis for it.
The court of appeals disagreed, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Black, who accepted the
state's argument that its interest in promoting "morality" served as a rational
justification for the law.
However, the court concluded that the married women
plaintiffs in this case might still be able to argue that the statute was unconstitutional
as applied to them, since Supreme Court cases have indicated that the right of privacy
specifically applies to the private, consensual sexual activities of married (and
unmarried) heterosexual couples. Consequently, the court decided to send the case back to
Judge Smith for a more focused consideration of whether the law might be unconstitutional
as applied to married people.