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U.S. News Archive
March 14 - March 20, 2001



This page contains news for the period March 14, 2001 through March 20, 2001.  

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Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Repeal of Arizona's anti-cohabitation and sodomy laws passes House vote

A story published today in Planet Out reports that the Arizona House of Representatives voted 31-24 on Tuesday to approve a bill that would repeal the states' archaic sex laws.

"This is the first time we have had a vote on the archaic laws alone," said Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley. "In the past we have voted on amendments to other bills. I think this is an historic day for Arizona." he added.

The bill is the latest attempt to repeal laws that prohibit non-familial cohabitation and "crimes against nature" including sodomy, oral sex and non-procreational acts between consenting adults. The statutes have been on the books since 1901 but have rarely been enforced in recent decades.

The bill is now pending in the Arizona Senate for consideration. Sen. Ed Cirillo, R-Sun City West, who sponsored the repeal legislation last year, said he believes he can marshal the necessary 16 votes to send it to the Gov. Jane Hull.


Sunday, March 18, 2001

Sacramento Bee mentions AASP in money wise column

A column published today in the Sacramento Bee mentions AASP in a section entitled "tax help for the unmarried."

Columnist Loretta Kalb wrote, "If you have a domestic partner or are single and feel left out of the Bush administration plan to give a tax break to two-earner married couples, you have an advocate."

She mentions our website address and then adds, "The organization, whose members make a tax-deductible contribution of $10 or more, reports on state and national events that affect single people."


Saturday, March 17, 2001

More singles are buying real estate on 'the buddy system'

A story published today in the Washington Post reports that the number of single people buying homes in the nation doubled between 1989 and 1999, with most of the increase due to purchases by single women.  A portion of these purchases are being made by friends who buy on the buddy system.

The story gives several examples of joint purchases made in Washington D.C.

Take for example, Dave Delcher, who was living in LeDroit Park last year in a house owned by two of his friends when he started seriously considering buying with a friend himself. So last May, Delcher talked architecture school pal David Tracz into paying half of the $195,000 for a 95-year-old fixer-upper near Howard University. "He didn't take a lot of convincing," Delcher remembers. "I just said if we pool our money, we can get more house."

Now, the two are sold on shared buying as a way to deal with the Washington area's skyrocketing real estate prices. And they believe they've found a way not only to grab an otherwise unaffordable property but also to get in on an investment that's currently beating the socks off the Nasdaq.

David Manowitz, 24, and Jose Velazquez, 26, took the same route last August. The tech company co-workers purchased a $510,000 three-story row house on Euclid Street NW in Adams-Morgan. To help cover the expense, they rent out six bedrooms.

A colleague, Yevgeny Gurevich, lives just down the street in a two-story property he bought 15 months ago for $294,000 with college pal Scott McDermott.

Most real estate experts say "unrelated buying" -- as opposed to purchases by those who are romantically involved, siblings, or parents and kids -- is still a very small share of the mix.

"It's extremely rare," said Jo Ricks, a broker at City Houses in the District who just handled her first such purchase last year. A gay couple bought a house in Upper Northwest with a third person, a friend.

Agents and brokers who've run into the situation say it seems to be a city phenomenon, involving young professionals fixed on finding great location, spaciousness and charm. A round of calls turned up few references to women friends buying together, perhaps, says one agent, because they'd rather own a smaller place alone than share, or perhaps because they're more optimistic about finding a romantic partner.

But as the category of "nontraditional buyers" increases -- typically including same-sex partners, unmarried couples, single women and single men -- the number of people buying with friends may also increase, experts say. Real estate experts, however, warn that the proposition should not be taken lightly -- either for those headed down the aisle or those headed only to a bigger, better housing selection. They advise thinking it through and taking the necessary legal steps to protect each buyer's interests.

Kevin Roth, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors, says there's no data on unrelated buyers. But he is able to confirm a doubling of the nation's unmarried buyers between 1989 and 1999.

The unmarried couples category grew from 3 percent in 1989 to 6 percent in '99, says Roth. And in '99, another 1 percent were listed as "others," a category that wasn't defined.

Roth says nontraditional buying is increasing in keeping with the changing lifestyles of buyers and rising prices of houses. It also has been encouraged by the wider array of mortgage loan products. "Mortgage companies are finding more ways to qualify home buyers," Roth said. "They're able to adjust for whatever risk there may be."

While there's no hard data, the anecdotal evidence indicates that friends are getting into the action. Real estate agents in tight housing markets, such as in the Silicon Valley and Boston, say it only makes sense that those who can't carry a mortgage alone would try to band together. Plus young professionals who cashed in stocks have been looking for a place to park their money.

"It was a trend in the mid-'80s, when mortgage rates jumped to 13, 14, 15 percent," said Gopal Ahluwalia, economist for the National Association of Home Builders. "A lot of people couldn't afford to buy on their own. Maybe it's starting to come back because of the prices of homes."

The steps to buying are simple today regardless of the number of people involved, said Kerry White of Prosperity Mortgage Inc. in the District. The mortgage loan (or promissory note) can be obtained by one or both parties (or by all the parties, if more than two are involved). Anybody on the loan is responsible for repayment. If two people sign, they are "jointly and severally" -- that is, together and separately -- responsible for repayment.

Trust and friendship, said Tony DeVol, Bethesda branch manager for RGS Title LLC, are never enough. "Whenever you're dealing with money, whatever your relationship is today, money does mysterious things to people."

DeVol and others also recommend unrelated buyers hold title as "tenants in common." Then, if one party dies, that person's will directs who gets his or her share of the property.

Title to property owned by unmarried people can also be held as "joint tenants, with rights of survivorship." Then, if one person dies, the other owner automatically gets the property with no probate by the court. But lawyers warn that owning as joint tenants might have unintended consequences, and requires legal action to undo if the relationship falls apart.

For example, if both parties in a joint tenancy are in a horrible accident and one dies, the other party gets the property. But if the second owner then dies, the property goes to his or her heirs, not to the family of the first owner.

"It's all gotta be spelled out," said Benny L. Kass, a D.C. real estate lawyer and columnist for The Washington Post. "If 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, I guess that 50 percent of relationships may end that way."

If a deal does break up, the courts do not allow a person to be forced to keep ownership. To force a sale, a partition suit is filed. "But the only ones who win in a partition suit are the lawyers, the speculators who buy and the trustees who sell," Kass said.


Saturday, March 17, 2001

Newspaper editorial wants civil union bill in California to include heterosexuals too

An editorial published today by the Palm Springs Desert Sun criticized a bill to legalize "civil unions" in California as flawed because it is limited to same sex couples.  Here is what the paper had to say:

"Assembly Bill 1338, which would allow civil unions between gays and lesbians -- and all of the legal rights that accompany such partnerships -- is narrow-minded and fails to respect other segments of the population that might benefit.

We appreciate the desire the homosexual community has for such legislation. Men and women in same-sex relationships can become involved financially as well as emotionally, similar to those in heterosexual relationships.

The difference is that gays and lesbians have no legal footing in a same-sex relationship.

They want civic equality. They want access to the 1,049 federal "rights, benefits and privileges" that are routinely given to married couples.

Our argument -- or opposition if you will -- is not with the homosexual community but with the way the legislation, introduced by Democrat Assemblyman Paul Koretz (sic), is written.

It fails to take into consideration all the heterosexual couples-- young and old alike -- who have the same financial and emotional entanglements and have chosen not to marry.

Relationships bound by companionship rather than a legal document are especially popular among the elderly, a huge segment of the Coachella Valley.

Eighteen percent of our residents are 65 years old or older, compared to 12.7 percent nationally.  They, too, many times are shut out of their loved one's life at times of illness or death.

It's another segment of our population that also should have access to a legal framework if that is how they choose to live.

The proposed law would amend the Family Code to allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, make medical decisions on behalf of sick partners and have community rights.

That's fine, but let's look beyond the homosexual community to all couples who decide to commit to each other without a contract.

Congress approved the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but is leaving it up to states to decide policy for themselves.

Hawaii and Vermont have approved same-sex marriage laws and Vermont is the first, and so far only, state to recognize civil unions between same-sex partners.

California is fertile ground for such legislation but when it is approved, it must remember people of all types, not just gays and lesbians.


Friday, March 16, 2001

GOP encounters obstacles in cutting marriage tax

A story published today in the Investor's Business Daily reports that the tax-cutting fiscal conservatives and pro-family social conservatives are now fighting hard against the President's proposed fix on the "marriage tax". House GOP leaders who omitted the Bush fix out of the nearly $1 trillion tax-cut package they passed last week are reworking the marriage tax to please its critics.

Right now a husband and wife who both work often pay more in taxes than they would if they were not married. This happens for two reasons:

(1) The standard deduction for married couples is less than the standard deduction for two singles. A single person can deduct $4,400 from his taxable income. Twice that would be $8,800, but married couples currently can only deduct $7,350.

Single persons living together can get an even bigger break if one of them files as "head of household." That would give them a combined deduction of $10,850.

(2) Taxing married couples together often pushes them into a higher tax bracket. Two singles with a taxable income of $60,000 would be taxed at 28%.But if they were married, their combined income of $120,000 would be taxed at 31%. They would pay even more if they were married and filed separately. That would put them in the 36% bracket.

President Bush's proposal lets working couples deduct 10% of the lesser income, up to $3,000. That would wipe out the "marriage penalty" for most couples.

The Congressional Budget Office found in 1997 that 43% of couples incur the "marriage penalty" under current rules. But 51% of couples are better off the way things are now. Most of those have only one income.

The Bush fix would mean that couples with two incomes would pay less tax than couples with one income at the same level. Instead of a "marriage penalty," couples with stay-at-home moms would suffer a "homemaker penalty."

"What it really amounts to is a little subsidy for wives to be in the workforce, and we don't really need that," said Michael Schwartz, lobbyist for Concerned Women for America.

The Bush fix would also mean that the richer would pay less and the poorer would pay more. That's because couples with stay-at-home moms earn much less on average than dual-income couples.

Data from the 2000 census show that couples with a working husband and a non-working wife have a median income of $45,541. For couples in which both the husband and the wife work full-time, the median income is $72,930.

Working couples with kids do even better if they claim the Dependent Care Tax Credit, which can cut up to $930 off their tax bill. Couples who do not pay someone else to watch their kids can't do that.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has sponsored a bill that would let married couples file separately and each get the singles deduction. That would end the marriage penalty but would tilt the tax system in favor of couples with two incomes over couples with one.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has sponsored a bill that would double the standard deduction and the top limit of each tax bracket which would end the marriage penalty without slighting one-income couples. Rep. Sam Johnson,R-Texas, has sponsored a similar bill in the House. Both have won the support of many family groups.

In effect, the Hutchison and Johnson bills would revive the practice of "income splitting" which was part of the tax code from 1948 to 1963.

In 1986, President Reagan pushed through the current system favoring married couples. The Bush plan would reverse Reagan and restore a 1981 tax break for two-income couples.

"What makes it so hard is that there are three groups of taxpayers: unmarried taxpayers, one-earner couples and two-earner couples," said Lawrence Zelenak, expert on tax law at the University of North Carolina.

"There is absolutely nothing you can do under which one of those groups does not have a plausible complaint that they are getting a bad deal."


Thursday, March 15, 2001

Texas Appeals Court upholds sodomy law

A story published today in the Houston Chronicle reports that an appellate court Thursday   upheld the state's sodomy law, challenged by two Houston men who were arrested in 1998 for having sex together when sheriff's deputies entered their apartment after receiving a false report of an armed intruder in the premises.

In a 7-2 decision, the all-Republican 14th Court of Appeals ruled that a law banning anal and oral sex between homosexuals does not violate any constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal rights or privacy.

The decision reversed a ruling by a smaller panel of the same court made in June which declared the law unconstitutional.

Thursday's decision is legally binding only for the 14-county area that makes up the 14th Court of Appeals region, which includes Harris County. But this Houston-based court is one of the premier intermediate appellate courts in the state and is often looked to for legal guidance.

Judge Harvey Hudson wrote the majority opinion and deferred to the legislature's ability to make and change laws.

"Certainly, the modern trend has been to decriminalize many forms of consensual sexual conduct even when such behavior is widely perceived to be destructive and immoral," Hudson wrote. "Our concern, however, cannot be with cultural trends and political movements because these can have no place in our decision without usurping the role of the Legislature."

The opinion says the Legislature is free to base statutes on public morality and in this case there is a legitimate state interest in criminalizing sodomy by homosexuals, even while allowing heterosexuals to engage in the same act without reprisal.

Bill Delmore, appellate division chief of the Harris County District Attorney's office who argued the case, said his goal was to preserve the existing law and the people's ability to have the legislature pass bills based on the prevailing morals.

Gay rights activists were hoping to use this case to overturn  the Texas law. Conservative politicians are worried that if overturned, it could lead Texas on the path to approving same-sex marriage.

The two dissenting judges who found the law unconstitutional in June found themselves publicly ridiculed by their own party for that earlier decision. In its state platform, the Republican Party asked  voters to defeat the pair and wanted the sodomy law reinstated.

The court in its opinion stated that politics had no role with the outcome. Longtime gay activist Ray Hill disagrees.

Hill said Republican pressure did exist and called it "unabashed blackmail."

Neil McCabe a professor in South Texas College of Law thinks reason exists to question the opinion.

"The general public is entitled to be skeptical of the court's claim that it resisted political pressure when it did exactly what the Republican Party demanded it do," said McCabe. McCabe stressed that he has no idea whether politics actually played a role.

Ruth E. Harlow, legal director for the Lambda Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based gay rights group, argued the case and pledges to appeal Thursday's decision.

"The government does not belong in people's bedrooms policing consensual adult intimacy," she said. "Nor can it have one rule for gay people and another one, granting more freedom, for non-gay people."

Texas is one of 16 states that outlaws sodomy and one of only four states that make it a crime only for homosexuals, according to a tally by Harlow's group.

Houston attorney Mitchell Katine, who represented the defendants said they will now appeal this case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has discretion on whether it will hear the case. Legal opinions vary widely on whether the high criminal court will take the controversial case.

State Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, said she's trying for the fifth time to get the Legislature to overturn the Texas sodomy law. The ban is more than 100 years old, though heterosexual sodomy was just made legal in 1973.

"It'll be tough," she said, since many legislators tell her they agree the law should be taken off the books but can't afford politically to vote that way.

"The time this law is really enforced is not in criminal cases," she said. "It's when a gay person applies to rent an apartment and is asked whether they participate in criminal behavior and they have to lie to get an apartment," she said, noting similar questions are on job applications and other forms.


Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Single Motherhood

A "family almanac" column written by Marguerite Kelly for the Washington Post answers this question:

Q. My single, unmarried sister wants to become pregnant to fulfill her maternal "need," and I object on moral and practical grounds. How can I convince her that she is making a foolish mistake? Isn't it true that the child of a single parent is more likely to use alcohol and drugs? To do poorly in school?

Kelly begins answering the question by suggesting that there are hundreds of thousands of mothers who are single, by choice or by chance, and many of them are great parents, but they would be the first to tell you that it isn't easy. Raising a son or a daughter is the most creative, rewarding, fascinating job in the world, but it is also the most demanding, the most exhausting and the most relentless one, too.

She says that the job won't get easier with time. The physical demands of parenthood in the first eight years are great but the psychological demands of a child between 8 and 18 are often greater, even when one is in good emotional shape.

A study of 22,000 adolescents by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSU) has found that a teenager living with two parents -- biological or adoptive -- is much less likely to use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes than one who lives with a single parent.

Another study, by the National Fatherhood Initiative, also found that children who live in homes with both parents usually have fewer problems than children who live with one parent. If the children of single parents are middle-class, they are 1 1/2 to 2 times more likely to have problems; if they are poor, they are 2 to 3 times more likely to run into trouble.

Kelly concludes that the outlook for the sister's child is going to depend on the good health of both of them and on her ability to make enough money to live in a decent neighborhood, buy nutritious food and pay for good day care. Mostly, though, it's going to depend on her attitude and her involvement with the child. She suggests that the sister first try to become a mentor through a big sister program as an initial step to find out if she really wants to be a single parent.  She also injects the possibility of becoming a foster parent.


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