December 31, 2000
challenge Utah adoption ban
A story published today in the Salt Lake Tribune reports that
same-sex couples, such as Cristy Gelave and Roni Wilcox, are gearing up for a legal
challenge to Utah's statutory ban on joint adoptions of children by gay and lesbian
Two years ago, Gleave and Wilcox, partners of five years,
conceived a child whose anonymous father was chosen for intelligence, dark hair and hazel
eyes. Few lesbian couples in Utah have used artificial insemination as a path to
For Wilcox and Gleave, it was a decision made easier by a
series of judicial rulings granting adoption rights to the nonbiological parent of gay and
lesbian couples in Utah and elsewhere.
On March 22, Gleave legally adopted Yeager, a sturdy child
with blond hair and big hazel eyes. Absent the adoption, Gleave's parental rights in a
custody battle or in the instance of Wilcox's death would have been uncertain. Yeager also
would have tenuous legal standing to benefit from Gleave's estate, medical insurance
coverage or Social Security benefits.
The story stresses how the date of Yeager's adoption is
especially critical. A week earlier, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt -- saying he believed it best
for a child to be raised by a mother and a father -- signed a law, enacted by the
Legislature, that banned adoptions by sexually involved couples who were living together
but not married.
As a result, Yeager may be the last legally adopted child of
a nonbiological lesbian mother in Utah.
"It's heartbreaking," says Laura Milliken Gray, a
Salt Lake City attorney who has handled more than half of the state's gay adoptions.
"Loving couples come in here every day asking 'Why? Why can't we adopt?' "
"What's so insane about this law," Gray says,
"is, if you are single and gay and don't live with anyone, you can still adopt. It's
Gay adoptions in Utah were virtually unheard of a decade ago.
Family law attorneys believe the first adoption of a child by a gay Utah couple occurred
around 1998; as many as 30 followed. Some were "stranger adoptions," or
adoptions of a child who didn't previously live with either parent.
Others were "second parent adoptions" or
step-parent adoptions involving a child already residing with one or both parents. All
proceeded under a Utah adoption law that stood unchallenged for 60 years.
The story says that the old law began to be eroded when an
administrative policy was enacted by the board of Utah's Division of Child and Family
Service that bars same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples from state-sponsored
The ensuing fight engendered a conservative backlash joined
by Brigham Young University law professor Lynn Wardle, who testified in favor of Utah's
"This was a response to the problem of stealth
adoptions," Wardle says. "There were a number of judges who were sympathetic to
gay and lesbian couples. . . . That was troubling."
That is a disingenuous argument, Gray says, because Utah's
old law specifically called for judicial review.
Then, the passage of a new statute aligned Utah with Florida
as the only states where gay couples are prevented from adopting. Soon after, Mississippi
became the third. Only Vermont specifically allows gay couple adoptions.
Wilcox and Gleave, along with several other Utah couples, are
preparing to challenge Utah's new law, with Gray in their corner.
"Gay couples who adopt are just like straight couples
who can't have children who want to adopt -- there is a real desire there, a love and a
passion for parenthood," says Gray, who reserves a wall in her office for pictures of
gay families she has helped preserve. "There is no accident when a lesbian couple
Saturday, December 30, 2000
Many Christian couples still choose to
delay sex until after marriage
A story published today in the Akron Beacon Journal reports that a large number of
Christian couples, such as Andre Williams and LaShante Smith, are choosing to remain
celibate until they marry.
Williams met Smith at a prayer meeting at Friendship West
Baptist Church. The two had known each other for about 15 years, since Williams had played
basketball for Smith's godfather in college. Smith was in junior high school then, and
Williams was a big brother of sorts.
But the 24-year-old who spoke at that Dallas prayer meeting in January 1999 was no little
girl. She was a college graduate with a budding career in telecommunications.
His feeling that this was more than friendship solidified the day Williams, then 32, told
Smith that he was in love and wanted a romantic relationship with her.
``She said, `That's good, but I need to pray about it,' '' Williams recalled.
And he knew he had found the right woman when she also made it clear that their dating
relationship would not include sex.
For many adults, the prospect of romance without sex is like love without music. In
contrast, some Christian singles are living a faith that has long demanded abstinence
until a couple are pronounced husband and
Even as marriage rates drop, divorce rates swell and the age of first marriage climbs,
these Christians struggling to live celibate single lives are increasingly looking to
pastors, church singles groups and friends for support. In recent years, pastors have
begun responding, tackling the topic in books, seminars and sermons.
``Marrieds and singles have been struggling with sex, and pastors have been silent,'' said
the Rev. Sheron Patterson of Jubilee United Methodist Church in Duncanville. ``But they
are waking up.''
``Here we are in a culture that obviously sees itself as sexually progressive compared to
100 years ago,'' said Bonnie Miller-McLemore, a professor of pastoral theology at
Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. ``On the other hand, with the
puritan streak that runs through American culture, we still don't talk about it.''
For many, Christian theology has always advocated an exclusive relationship between sex
But there is not just one Christian approach to sex regarding unmarried adults, said
Miller-McLemore, an author of From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the
American Family Debate, a book from the Religion, Culture and Family Project at the
University of Chicago Divinity School.
``There are probably at least three positions: Catholic, evangelical and a liberal, more
progressive position,'' she said. ``In the two cases of Catholic and evangelical, you will
get an unequivocal teaching of the church. . . . In the progressive approach, there's a
`Let us not deal with this.' ''
Though the approach is perhaps not clearly articulated from pulpits, Miller-McLemore, for
one, envisions a progressive Christian teaching that would ``honor the importance of
bodily, physical contact,'' and allow for sex in committed, if ringless, relationships,
``It is really easier when you can make an absolutistic claim such as no sex out of
marriage,'' she said. ``It is a lot harder to be morally nuanced.''
And there is room in the discussion for a nuanced Christian approach to sex and single
adults, Miller-McLemore said.
Even in traditions that have demanded celibacy from single believers, not all have been as
committed as McClure.
In general society, sex and marriage have separated from each other to the point that
premarital sex may be a misnomer, said David Popenoe, a sociology professor at the State
University of New Jersey, Rutgers, and co-director of the school's National Marriage
The project released a study in June called Sex Without Strings, Relationships Without
Rings. It looked at 10 groups of singles in their 20s without college degrees and
discovered that their dating was not geared toward marriage, he said. Instead, those
singles focused on their careers and establishing financial security.
Marriage rings were scarce, but sex was not, Popenoe said.
Reconnecting marriage and sex in the minds and lives of their flocks has become a priority
for some pastors who work with singles, Nelson and Patterson said.
Patterson began talking about sex to congregants in the 1980s, when she was an assistant
pastor at a Dallas church and started a singles ministry. Her message was celibacy, and
she makes the case with Bible verses and social observations.
``I used to have a fire-and-brimstone message about sex,''
she said. ``Now my message is that celibacy is the best option for the single
Friday, December 29, 2000
More schools telling kids that sex is only
for married couples
A story published today in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal
reports that increased federal funding for "abstinence only" sex education
programs is causing more schools to tell students that sex is only for married couples.
Cartoons are one weapon used in the abstinence-only programs,
as are films, celebrity rallies, school classes, and even lollipops and pencils.
A recent survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research
organization aligned with birth-control and abortion rights advocates, found an elevenfold
increase since 1988 among secondary school teachers who say they do not discuss any method
other than abstinence as a way to avoid pregnancy.
Groups promoting abstinence until marriage have flourished since conservative Republicans
in Congress, in a little-noticed amendment to the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, stepped up
federal financing to promote chastity, which had totaled $60 million since 1981.
The new statute set aside $250 million for five years - $437 million including mandatory
state matching funds - and prohibited participating programs from encouraging use of
condoms or contraception or giving any information that might undermine the abstinence
Along with other increases in financing for abstinence programs, federal and state
governments will pay $100 million over the next year to teach chastity as the only
realistic strategy for avoiding disease and pregnancy. In contrast, the federal
government spends only $30 million a year on education to fight HIV, largely by urging
youngsters to use condoms if they do have sex. Aside from spending on abstinence and HIV
programs, the federal government designates no other money for sex education.
The abstinence-until-marriage programs encourage students to view commercials, television
shows and movies portraying sex between singles with skepticism and to refuse physical
intimacy not anchored in wedding vows - values that most parents tell pollsters they want
schools to pass on.
The story points out that these abstinence only programs actually conflict with the views
of most parents, who overwhelmingly favor teaching youngsters to take precautions if they
do have sex, in shunning practical information for students who ignore the abstinence
Contrary to the wishes of more than 80% of the parents surveyed in a half-dozen national
polls over the last decade, abstinence-until-marriage programs do not tell youngsters how
to obtain or use birth control and condoms, instead focus on their potential for failure.
Some describe in gruesome detail the advanced stages of venereal diseases, but do not
mention where teenagers should go or what they should do if they catch one.
According to the story, educators predict a vigorous debate over abstinence courses next
year, when most of the money available faces reauthorization.
"This is really an argument not about research," said Sarah S. Brown, director
of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which believes that teenagers need to
learn about birth control and disease prevention, which the abstinence courses avoid.
"It's about what people believe is right."
The three studies that have looked into the effectiveness of abstinence programs which
have generally been recognized as the most valid have shown insufficient evidence that
they delay sex, said Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at Education, Training and
Research Associates in California.
Kirby's group produces its own curriculum, which promotes abstinence but also emphasizes
the importance of using condoms and contraception.
A second review of the studies by Rebecca Maynard of Mathematica Policy Research, a data
analysis company in Princeton, N.J., reached a similar conclusion. Maynard is running the
government's first evaluation of federally financed abstinence programs.
A National Academy of Sciences committee on HIV prevention recently called spending on
abstinence-only programs "poor fiscal and public health policy." A panel of
scientists the National Institutes of Health convened in 1997 deemed the programs an
obstacle to reducing the risky behaviors among teens that spread HIV and called for the
elimination of their financing.
Debbie Olson, a Chicago nurse who heads the Southwest Parents Committee, which teaches
abstinence, acknowledged that few recognized studies proved conclusively that courses like
hers keep teenagers from having sex. But, she said, she just knew it was right, on moral
if not scientific grounds.
"It's a philosophical difference over what is sex for," she said. "Is it
for recreational sport or is it something special and meaningful?"
Although advocates appear polarized into two camps, pitting "abstinence only"
against "comprehensive sex education," studies over the last 15 years have
documented success among programs that combine both approaches: discussion of the risks of
early sexual involvement and the skills needed to refuse advances, backed up with
instruction about precautions for those who have sex.
The studies found no proof that talking about protection led
teenagers to have sex earlier.