January 13, 2001
Military proposes new rules for ex-spouses
A story published today in the Daily Herald reports that the
Armed Forces Tax Council of the United States has proposed a dozen changes to the military
ex-spouse law including an end to "windfall" shares of retired pay that former
spouses get as a result of promotions and longevity raises earned by members after their
Another recommendation, this one favoring ex-spouses, would reduce from 20 years to 15 the
time spouses must be married to service members, while members are on active duty, to
qualify for full military medical coverage and base privileges following divorce.
The Armed Forces Tax Council is a standing advisory panel in the Pentagon. It has tax
lawyers and pay experts from every service and the office of the secretary of defense to
help officials through complex tax and compensation issues. Sources said many of the
council's recommendations are supported by an unreleased report on reform of the Uniformed
Services Former Spouse Protection Act.
The story says that the tax council ideas appear to favor ex-spouses, although balance was
a goal. Divorced retirees might be delighted just to see the debate heating up. Each
proposal, however, is a long way from becoming law.
First, the tax council will have to gather service comments. Then the proposals will get
another review from the staff of Donald H. Rumsfeld, President-elect Bush's nominee for
defense secretary. Whatever the department proposes will be reviewed again by the White
House's Office of Management and Budget, to determine and weigh the costs.
What Bush finally recommends on the former spouse law, if anything, would be submitted to
Congress next January as part of the 2003 legislative agenda for defense.
The tax council's most significant proposal known so far would end the windfall. If
service members are not retired when divorced, state courts often award the ex-spouse a
percentage of future retired pay. This, in effect, allows the value of the
"property" to rise with promotions or "time-in-service" raises earned
after the divorce. The tax council said this is inconsistent with treatment of other
marital assets. It proposes protecting members against such windfalls in future divorce
cases by basing a spouse's share of retirement on the member's grade or rank when
divorced, plus annual military pay adjustments.
Another tax council recommendations would allow retirees, or courts, to divide Survivor
Benefit Plan protection between ex-spouses and current spouses. Only one beneficiary now
can be designated.
Comments and suggestions are welcomed. Write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111,
Centreville, Va. 20120-1111, or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, January 9, 2001
Detroit News focuses on book published by AASP members
A story published today in the Detroit News asks "Is
being single an ailment that needs to be cured?"
A lot of singles see it that way, says Xavier Amador,
associate professor of psychology at Columbia University in New York, including TV's Ally
McBeal, who spends a good part of her time moaning about her single state.
Amador, who is also psychology and health consultant for the
Weekend Today television show on NBC, says the feeling is one result of the constant
barrage of comments many single people hear from well-meaning relatives and friends who
are determined to see them married.
The story says that most younger, never-married singles have
heard the familiar refrain: "So, what's wrong with you? Too picky? Too focused on
your career? When are you going to settle down? If you wait too long, you'll be sorry.
I've got the perfect person for you." And so on.
As a result of societal pressure, a lot of people put their
lives on hold while they're waiting to be married, Amador says.
"People don't go on vacations waiting for Mr.
Right," he says. "Men and women don't buy a home, even though they should,
because they're waiting to be married."
Amador has written a book aimed at helping singles get a more
balanced perspective on their circumstances. Co-authored by Judith Kiersky, an adjunct
professor at New York University, it is titled Being Single in a Couples' World: How to be
Happily Single While Looking for Love (Free Press, $24).
"There really is a cultural mandate to marry,"
Amador says. "We value marriage over being single. Our genes tell us to mate, there's
a biological imperative to reproduce, and all the major religions teach us that marriage
is a sign of maturity and morality."
Amador suggests singles "Take a good, hard look at
whether you're putting your life on hold instead of living it." The story
Amador and Kiersky both are members of the American
Association for Single People.
Supreme Court to review sex bias in citizenship rules for children born to unmarried
A story published today by the Associated Press reports that
the United States Supreme Court is taking another look at a federal law that treats
fathers and mothers differently when deciding whether children born out of wedlock and
abroad are U.S. citizens.
In a previous case, five of the justices suggested that the law could be challenged
successfully on sex-discrimination grounds.
The case being argued today was brought to the court by a Texas man who was born in
Vietnam in 1969 to an American father and a Vietnamese mother. The couple were not
married. Tuan Anh Nguyen has lived in the United States since he was six years old and has
been raised since birth by his father, Joseph Boulais of Houston.
In 1997, immigration officials ordered Nguyen deported on his guilty plea to two charges
of sexually assaulting a child.
Federal immigration law automatically gives citizenship to children born abroad to
unmarried parents if their mother is American and meets a residency requirement. But the
law asks more of fathers, including that they legalize the relationship by the time the
child turns 18 and agree in writing to provide financial support until the child is an
Bolais obtained a Texas court ruling in 1998 declaring himself the father of Nguyen, but
it was long after his son's 18th birthday.
Nguyen, 31, and his father contend the law sexually discriminates by holding fathers to
different standards, violating the Constitution's equal-protection guarantee.
But attorneys for the Immigration and Naturalization Service claim that because the mother
is present at birth, motherhood is easier to establish and fathers must take further steps
to show paternity and a relationship with the child. They also contend that Congress sets
the rules of citizenship and these rules are necessary to avoid fraud,
among other things.
Nguyen is represented by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
In a 1998 Supreme Court case involving a Texas father and his Filipino daughter, the
justices issued a split decision against the daughter who brought it, with some justices
saying she did not have legal standing.
On the question of equal treatment, three justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter
and Stephen G. Breyer -- said the law was discriminatory. Two others, Justices Sandra Day
O'Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy, indicated the ruling could be challenged successfully in
Appeals courts have reached differing results on the issue. The 5th Circuit Court of
Appeals, in upholding Nguyen's deportation, ruled the law was not unconstitutional. The
9th Circuit, citing the 1998 Supreme Court case opinions, ruled that the law was
A ruling in favor of Nguyen could have a wide impact, federal attorneys say.
In its brief, the government said that if the court finds mothers and fathers cannot be
treated differently, ``there surely would be a flood of litigation contending the states
must reverse their laws -- adoption, inheritance, wrongful death and residency -- that
A decision is expected by July. The case is Nguyen and Boulais v. Immigration
and Naturalization Service, 99-2071.
Monday, January 8, 2001
Travel industry moves beyond
"family friendly" to attract singles
A story published today in U.S. News and World Report says that about 25% of travelers are
single. Many travel destinations are beginning to cater to them.
Take Club Med, for example. Down at the beach on the
Turks and Caicos islands, just east of the Bahamas, the water is the color of turquoise
and the sand is sifted-flour soft. But the action here is at the pool in the Club Med
complex. A foam machine pumps airy suds into a giant makeshift corral where singles rock
to pop tunes. Staffers with the souls of Love Boat cast members are busy matchmaking among
the guests. And it's almost time for "crazy signs," a popular group activity
that, suffice it to say, borrows heavily from Simon Says.
Yes, the singles travel scene is alive and well here, even gaining new acceptance among
initially cynical gen X-ers who admit to, say, making fun of their high school
cheerleaders. On the heels of the meet-and-greet getaways popular in the 1970s and early
1980s, resorts struggled to find relevance among a clientele that was, in the 1990s,
increasingly married with children. So companies like Club Med toned down their risqué
image and built in family-friendly options like kiddie pools, day care, and circus camps.
But the pendulum has swung back: Now, nearly one quarter of American travelers are
singles. They have climbed the corporate ladder and weathered Internet dating. They spend
hours a day on E-mail. And they've found it tough to meet mates the traditional ways,
through friends and shared interests, thanks in large part to long workdays and lots of
moving. Now, says Liz Vollan, president of Aim Higher Travel, "they're looking for a
sense of communityand places where they can actually meet people face to face."
Today the tourism industry is becoming part of the dating industry. Sandals,
previously a couples and, later, a family-oriented resort, opened a destination strictly
for adults last month in Jamaica. SuperClubs recently unveiled its Hedonism III resort in
Jamaica's Runaway Bay, complete with toga nights and pajama parties. For adults who would
rather sidestep the frat party atmosphere, adventure travel outfits are touting their
trips, including hiking in Bhutan, as the new singles scene. In short, says Vollan,
"the singles market is booming."
Appeal challenges constitutionality of
Louisiana's sodomy law
A story published today by the Associated Press reports that
gay rights activists are seeking to overturn Louisiana's 196-year-old law barring sodomy,
maintaining that it unfairly targets gays and lesbians. The statute prohibits certain
forms of consensual sex of adults in private, regardless of whether the conduct is
homosexual or heterosexual in nature.
In 1999, Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson upheld the law, ruling that it violates Louisiana's
right to privacy but does not violate other rights protected by the state Constitution.
An appeal was filed by the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians Inc., and nine gay or
lesbian individuals, on grounds that the law ``denies us the right to have sex under any
circumstances,'' said John D. Rawls, LEGAL's attorney.
State attorneys, however, contend the law is needed to promote marriage and encourage
Arguments are scheduled Monday before the state's 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.
The case affects 63 of Louisiana's 64 parishes. A separate case in Jefferson Parish, just
outside New Orleans, has been put on hold until rulings in Monday's case are final.
If LEGAL loses, the case cannot be appealed to federal court, Rawls said.
``We have not raised any federal issues in this case,'' he said. ``It is based entirely on
the broad human rights that the people of Louisiana have preserved for ourselves in the
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 1985 that the U.S. Constitution does not provide
a right to privacy to gays and lesbians, he said.
Monday's appeal does not concern the right to privacy. Instead, it deals with the rest of
Gill-Jefferson's findings. But the privacy issue remains under review.
In July, the state Supreme Court ruled in another case that the right of privacy did not
extend to oral or anal sex in a motel room between consenting heterosexual adults.
The court reasoned that if consenting adults have such sex, both are guilty and there is
Three months later, the court ordered Gill-Jefferson to reconsider her decision that the
law violates privacy rights, and the judge has scheduled arguments on that issue March 9.