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U.S. News Archive
June 01 - June 06, 2001



This page contains news for the period June 01, 2001 through June 06, 2001.  

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 Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Sex discrimination in high-tech jobs still prevalent

A story published by the Kansas City Star reports that a study released by Deloitte & Touche Tuesday shows that women working in the high-tech industry are encountering the same discrimination and obstacles to advancement as women in more traditional industries.

Two-thirds of the online professionals surveyed for the study thought that the playing field is "more level" for women working in high technology than in other industries. However, the majority said that men still have an advantage in high-tech jobs and that a glass ceiling keeps women from advancing.

About 60 percent of the women surveyed thought that women hit a glass ceiling in technology jobs. They said barriers to advancement include gender bias, sex discrimination and a lack of female role models. They also said women are incorrectly perceived as less knowledgeable or qualified than their male counterparts.

"While there are women achieving stunning success in the high-tech industry, they appear to be the exception rather than the rule," said Sue Molina, national director of the Deloitte & Touche Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. "There is clearly a disconnect between men and women's perceptions of what factors contribute to success in the workplace."

The Women in Technology Leadership survey is the second in a series of polls commissioned by Deloitte & Touche on women's leadership roles in the United States. One thousand women and 500 men were interviewed for the study, which was conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide.

The survey confirms earlier research, including work by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance women in business.

"One of the things that is clear is that the pipeline (of women entering information technology) has decreased over time," said Mary Mattis, senior research fellow at Catalyst.

Only 17 percent of high school students taking advanced placement computer science are women. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the percentage of computer science degrees awarded to women declined from 37 percent to 28 percent.

Mattis said it is crucial to get young girls and women to study these subjects because the demand for high-tech skills will only increase.

Molina said that despite the findings, she is hopeful that high-tech businesses will make the necessary changes.

"The technology industry has a great opportunity because it's such a new industry, and it's easier for it to change its culture and environment," Molina said. "Companies will never be successful if they cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest, and you can't keep the best and the brightest if you ignore half the work force."

Without mates, more women are starting their own families

A story published by the Chicago Tribune reports that in the past 10 years, a growing number of single women over 30 have either given birth or adopted despite not having found their perfect partner.

"They're not ready to be married and they haven't found the person they match up with. They're just not willing to postpone the pleasure of parenthood," said Walter Smitson, psychiatry professor at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who has spoken about older single mothers at national health conferences. "Their maternal instinct is strong and they feel, once they're over 30, they're mature enough to do it on their own." 

National Center for Health Statistics data shows that the number of babies born to single women over 30 has grown from about 170,000 in 1990 to nearly 200,000 in 1999.

While the number of births to unmarried women has increased from about one in 10 in 1970 to one in three today, the number of older single women having babies is also rising. Thirty years ago, 18 percent of babies born outside of marriage were to women 25 and older. Today, that number stands at 34 percent, according to a report from Child Trends, a non-profit research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Although single mothers have been raising children alone for years, "the difference today is that women are making a conscious decision to raise a child by themselves as opposed to having it thrust upon them because of death, divorce or abandonment," said Kim Gandy, executive vice president of the National Organization for Women.

Therapists and doctors point to several factors that have contributed to the increase in the number of single women who choose to become mothers. As the traditional definition of family has changed within the past 20 years, society has become more accepting of single mothers, they say. Celebrities and television personalities also have helped erase stigmas surrounding single mothers by publicizing their decisions to adopt or give birth.

"People are talking about it more. Women are feeling more comfortable with themselves as far as their ability to handle a family without a husband," said Michael Halpern, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Prentice Women's Hospital and Maternity Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who has helped about a dozen single women over 30 give birth in the last year.

More women today choose to postpone marriage and parenthood in favor of their careers, psychiatrists say. By the time they reach their late 30s and early 40s, many of these women have successful jobs and are financially stable. They also feel independent enough to be a parent alone.

However, becoming a single parent often has disadvantages, researchers say. Studies that compare children from two-parent families and those from single-parent families show that children who do not grow up with their fathers tend to have problems academically, show emotional or behavioral problems, be more likely to have sex as teenagers and have children out of wedlock and be at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, said Bridget Maher, marriage and family policy analyst for the non-partisan, non-profit Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

Women who choose to become single mothers are "looking out for themselves but they're not looking out for the good of the child," said Maher.

A critical element is a support network, many single mothers say. Jane Mattes, author of "Single Mothers by Choice," became pregnant accidentally in 1980 and chose to keep her baby when she realized it might be her only chance to become a mother. Soon after Mattes' son was born, the 37-year-old new mother formed a support group of eight single mothers because she wanted to meet other women in her situation.

Today, Single Mothers by Choice is an international group with more than 4,000 members who receive support and advice. Mattes' son just finished his junior year of college and is working as an intern in computer programming at Columbia University this summer.

"You need to know you're not doing this on an island," Mattes said. "Women should ask themselves if they can tap into a support system so that they are able to count on support when they need it."

Single women who are considering parenthood should weigh several factors, such as their health, finances and support system, before deciding to raise a child alone, therapists say.

A strong support system is one of the most important needs of single mothers, several therapists and mothers who have raised children alone said.

Monday, June 4, 2001

Michigan state court upholds old state statute on housing discrimination

A story published today by the Detroit Free Press reports that a few years ago, Court of Appeals Judge Maura Corrigan noted that under an 1846 Michigan statute it is still illegal for a man and woman who are not married to live together for the purpose of having sex. If lawmakers had meant to protect unmarried couples from discrimination, she reasoned, they surely would have begun by repealing the law that establishes criminal penalties for their conduct.

Michigan Supreme Court justices resoundingly rejected Corrigan's reasoning in December 1998, holding that the state's civil rights law did indeed bar landlords from rejecting unmarried couples on the basis of their marital status, notwithstanding the existence of a statute that hadn't been enforced in 60 years.

But just four months later, a new Supreme Court majority -- which by then included both Corrigan and a second signatory to her 1997 Court of Appeals ruling, Justice Cliff Taylor -- voted to reverse course.

Conceding that two unmarried couples who'd sued for housing discrimination had a cause of action, the high court's conservative majority nevertheless directed Jackson County Circuit Judge Alexander Perlos to determine whether the landlords who'd turned them away had a right to do so on religious grounds.

In an eight-page opinion that turns the housing discrimination law on its head, the Jackson County circuit judge held that landlords who harbor religious objections to out-of-wedlock cohabitation have a constitutional right to bar unmarried couples.

Michigan law already includes a loophole extending that discretion to landlords who rent out rooms in their own houses or duplexes. But Perlos' ruling blows that exception wide open, theoretically allowing the Detroit developer of a 500-unit condominium project in Charlevoix to nix unmarried couples so long as his religious objections were sincere.

Clifford Shrupp, a former United Church of Christ minister who directs the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, notes that judges elsewhere have consistently held that landlords who believe the Bible precludes them from doing business with blacks, Jews or single women "should invest in something other than housing."

But James Fleming, a lawyer for the unmarried couples whose housing rights were trampled in the Jackson County case, says his clients have no intention of giving conservative appellate judges the opportunity to make Perlos' ruling a statewide precedent.

"Why take the chance of making bad case law?" Fleming asks.

It is only a matter of time before other landlords across the state assert their right to defend the institution of marriage in their apartments, condos and housing developments.

Illinois's DuPage county  focuses on unwed fathers

A story published by the Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois' DuPage County Parents and Kids in Partnership Program, or PAK, has made a small but important breakthrough in the often muddled world of unwed parents. 

The 3 year old program, is designed to bridge the gap between never-married parents with an emphasis on getting fathers more involved in their children's lives. The guiding principle is that children thrive when they have a relationship with both parents--and that fathers are more likely to pay child support if they are active in their children's lives.

Initial studies by the state, though incomplete, show child-support payments have increased among fathers who have gone through the PAK program.

"It's been doing extremely well," said Joseph Mason, who heads the Child Support Program in the Illinois Department of Public Aid, the agency that funds PAK. "It's been successful working with the never-married population, which often does not have these services."

According to census figures, the number of single mothers nationwide increased three times faster than married couples in the 1990s. During the decade, the number of single mothers in the U.S. grew by 27 percent, a trend echoed in Chicago's suburbs.

In DuPage, almost 13 percent of the babies born in 1998 were born to unmarried mothers, and census figures released earlier this year show 25,882 of the county's households--or about 8 percent--are run by single mothers.

Often, PAK organizers say, never-married parents slip through the cracks of the legal system, where rules are designed for divorcing couples.

"We have had cases where dad is meeting their child for the first time and the kid is 15 years old," said Sheila Murphy-Russell, coordinator of the program. "The bottom line for us is there are good dads--they can be good dads--but the system hasn't always been there for them."

PAK sets up in a DuPage courtroom, providing mediators for feuding parents who come through the judicial system. Many of the program's clients are steered into PAK by a judge who has overseen a couple's child support battle or a DNA test that proves paternity.

For fathers who have no relationship with their child, the program provides supervised visits. For both parents, PAK has a three-hour seminar in which they are encouraged to set aside their differences and focus on the interest of their children.

While Cook County and Peoria run similar programs for unmarried parents, neither combine all the components included in the DuPage version.

Officials at the Illinois Department of Public Aid say that because the program is so new, there are too few cases to draw statistical conclusions. Since its inception in 1998, PAK has enrolled 564 families in at least part of the program, but fewer than 200 have completed an entire year.

An initial, ongoing study by the state shows that fathers who go through PAK pay child support at roughly the same rate as fathers who have joint custody of their children, or about 80 percent.

By contrast, the study shows fathers in similar situations who haven't been through the program tend to pay at a much lower rate, closer to the state rate of fathers who don't have joint custody, or about 35 percent.

"There is an enormous value on getting fathers involved," said DuPage Associate Judge Thomas Dudgeon, whose courtroom is the host for PAK. "You can't put a dollar value on that and you can't put a success rate on that. ... The goal here is to build families on a lot of different levels," Dudgeon said.

Sunday, June 3, 2001

Tax measure offers little relief for married couples

A story published by the Los Angeles Times reports that the big tax cut passed by Congress last weekend was supposed to give married couples a break. But the relief is too little and comes too late, experts say.

The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign this week, provides some relief to two-income married couples. But the tax breaks are modest, addressing only a few of the tax penalties for dual-income marrieds that pockmark the code. Moreover, most of the relief is delayed until 2005--a point at which about one in five couples who marries this year already will have filed for divorce, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

"It isn't a great help," said Brenda Schafer, a tax research expert at H&R Block in Kansas City, Mo. "It's just a little tweak."

Consider a hypothetical husband and wife, each with $25,000 in taxable income--or $50,000 combined. This couple would pay about $1,400 more in federal income tax than two single people earning the same.

But this married couple will get just $466 in tax relief in 2006, according to an analysis by CCH Inc., a Riverwoods, Ill.-based publisher of tax information. In other words, they still will pay substantially more federal income tax than if they had stayed single.

The problem isn't just a matter of timing. The breaks for married couples will take effect in stages, getting a bit more generous each year. But even when they're in full effect in 2009, they still will fall short of solving the marriage penalty problem, said Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst at CCH Inc.

"There are 40 or 50 areas in the tax code that cause a marriage penalty," he said. "This only addresses [a few] of them."

Some tax code provisions create marriage penalties--and some create bonuses. For instance, although two-income married couples pay more tax than singles with similar earnings, single-income married couples pay less.

* Tax brackets

U.S. income taxes are based on progressive rates, meaning the more you earn, the higher percentage you pay in taxes. However, the income thresholds that trigger higher tax brackets are never twice as high for married couples as they are for single taxpayers.

Consequently, two singles with taxable income of $25,000--or $50,000 total--each pay 15% of that in tax. But a married couple with a combined income of $50,000 would pay 28% on the portion of their income above $43,840--the income threshold at which tax brackets change for married couples filing jointly. Thus, the married couple pays $800 more in income tax on the $6,160 in taxable income than two single taxpayers with the same taxable income combined. To be specific, each single pays $3,750 in tax, or $7,500 combined. If they were married, they'd pay $8,300--an increase of $800.

* Standard deduction

For two singles, the standard deduction is $4,550 each, or $9,100-- considerably more than the standard deduction for married couples--$7,600. Because deductions are used to shield income from taxation, that difference cost a married couple in the 15% tax bracket $225 this year.

* Tax credits

Many tax credits and deductions are tied to income. If you earn more than set amounts, you lose your ability to claim them. Because the married thresholds frequently are more than twice the single thresholds, married couples lose out again.

In fact, H&R Block's Schafer said, one of the most onerous income requirements affects low-income parents trying to qualify for the earned income tax credit, a break for the working poor.

No taxpayer earning more than about $32,000 a year can qualify for the credit. However, the income test makes no distinction for marital status. The result: Low-income married couples with children lose the right to claim thousands of dollars in tax breaks.

For instance, a married couple with two children and $40,000 in combined income--$20,000 from each parent--can't claim the earned income tax credit. However, if this couple split and each claimed one child as a dependent, each would get an earned income tax credit of $1,181--or $2,362 total.

Although the latest census figures show an increase in the number of unmarried couples living together, there's no statistical evidence that the marriage penalty is the cause. Still, concern about the government undermining the institution of marriage spurred Congress to include marriage penalty relief in the tax package.

Congress opted for a two-pronged approach. The measure raises both the standard deduction and the income thresholds for married couples in the 15% bracket until the thresholds reach 200% of the relevant levels for singles.

However, the marital status disparities in all higher tax brackets remain unchanged. That means higher-income couples--who often pay thousands of dollars more in federal income taxes because they are married--will get little relief compared with the amount of additional income tax that they pay.

In another change that will help lower-income couples, starting next year, the income limit will also rise by $1,000 for married couples claiming the earned income credit.

Still, many people think married couples should have gotten more.

"We promote public policy by the way we tax," Woodhouse said. "Unless we want to start promoting a single lifestyle, you need to give more to married couples."

This article emphasizes marriage penalties but does not mention all of the marriage bonuses in the tax codes, such as the social security spousal survivor benefit, the estate tax exemption for a surviving spouse, the income tax exemption for spousal benefits at work, the property tax transfer exemption if title is transferred on an automobile or real property to a spouse, etc.

Politicians in state capitol promoting marriage and fatherhood

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that politicians in the state capital are trying to counter the momentum of the recent decline of the traditional American family by using government to promote families, marriage, and fatherhood.

The recent census showed that married couples with children make up less than a quarter of all households. To some conservatives, this signals a further fraying of the social fabric. So they're leading an effort to fund everything from high-school classes on marriage to $5,000 bonuses for women at risk of having out-of-wedlock births to encourage them to marry - and stay married.

While critics say there's no evidence such "social engineering" works, both the White House and some Democrats are pushing initiatives that represent a new level of federal involvement in helping the American family.

In a controversial move, President Bush is budgeting $315 million over five years for programs to bolster fatherhood and marriage. The initiatives are a precursor to the 2002 reauthorization of the welfare-reform law, when a major recalibration toward fatherhood and marriage programs is expected.

Even supporters concede, however, there's little evidence these programs will change what goes on in homes.

But it's not just conservatives who are focusing on the family. Moderate Democrats are pushing fatherhood programs, too. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, has introduced a bill to give $380 million to states for fatherhood initiatives. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut is a co-sponsor. A similar bill in the House has the endorsement of the congressional Black Caucus.

Fatherhood programs typically stress one or more basic elements: encouraging dads to spend time with their kids, pushing them to pay child support, helping them find better jobs so they can support their progeny.

Supporters laud these kinds of initiatives. Ted Horn, who Mr. Bush has nominated to be head of family support at the Health and Human Services Department, wrote recently that public policy - including tax policy - "needs to show it values marriage by rewarding those who choose it." He advocates requiring states to have a plan to boost two-parent households. Another option is turning the "marriage penalty" tax into a "marriage bonus."

But not all conservatives agree with this approach. Advocates of less government see this as too activist. "We're talking about the most intimate of human relations - and about the government coming in with a sledgehammer to try to fix it," says Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute here. He also calls the approach "hypocritical" because it shows that Republicans are saying, "Now that we control the power of government we should use it for our purposes" - for social engineering of the conservative kind.

Other groups - from women to gays to single people - resist the emphasis on marriage because they say it ignores the many other forms of family life that exist across the nation and promotes a patriarchal tradition.

Furthermore, they say, in cases of domestic tension or abuse, marriage may not be a good answer. "Some people assume single parenthood is always bad," says MDRC's Mr. Berlin. "But the evidence is hardly clear."

Yet a focus on marriage may also help women think through who they're hanging out with, says Heritage's Mr. Rector. "If the guy you're co-habiting with right now is no good, maybe you need to steer away from him," he says.

Separated parents can use virtual visitation to be in contact with their kids

A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that divorce is hard on kids, but it's even tougher when one parent moves out of state.

Technology, however, has made it more convenient for parents to be a part of their children's lives even if they live far apart from each other. Think of it as "virtual visitation." E-mail is the easiest tool to bridge the distance. Assuming the kids are old enough to manage it, it's worth it to invest the $20 or so a month to set your kids up with e-mail accounts. E-mail particularly shines when there's a big time-zone difference.

Setting up an email account allows you to send photos or even little video clips or post photos on a Web site for your kids to see. With kids growing so quickly, parents appreciate this feature much more than kids do.

Another variation of this is "instant messaging," where you go online and communicate via text messages. Many kids, particularly those 12 to 16, love "IM-ing" their friends, so it would be a natural way to stay in touch. Kids think it's much cooler when they receive instant-messages rather than parents contacting them on the phone constantly.

Another approach out of the Jetsons cartoon series is videoconferencing. With so-called "videocams" you'll be able to see each other while you talk, almost like you're in the same room. Depending on your computer, it's not that expensive to set up.

Aware of the new technological advances, a New Jersey appeals court has recently ruled that online visiting -- along with traditional face-to-face contact -- would be a "creative and innovative" way for a father to stay in touch with his 9-year-old daughter if the man's ex-wife moved to California.

A Florida court in December 2000 has also ordered the parents of a 10-year-old girl to install videoconferencing computers in both homes when the girl's mother relocated to Ohio.

Videoconferencing isn't perfect. The pictures may be jerky and audio quality may not be the best. But, virtual visitation is better than not being there at all, and the main thing is it shows the child is that you care. That's more important than anything.

Try an un-wedding after a divorce

A story published today by the Chicago Sun Times reports that a divorce service that was once popular in the 70's is now being revived. Phil and Barbara Penningroth had planned the formal split at the end of their 25-year marriage almost as carefully as they had their wedding.

Their "ceremony of parting," in which they handed back the rings they had once placed on each other's fingers and "forgave" one another, was performed in front of guests.

Couples who choose these ceremonies set aside their differences to mark the end of their marriages with as much ritual and celebration as they began them.

The intention is to avoid the bitterness and recrimination of divorce in a society where marriage appears to be crumbling. Census figures released last week show that barely a quarter of the country's households comprise a couple with children--the lowest ever recorded. The divorce rate is almost 40 percent.

Because divorce ceremonies have no legal status, there are no accurate figures on how many partake in the aforementioned  ceremonies.

Barbara Penningroth advises couples to wait for a while after their legal divorce before holding a joint ceremony, to allow emotions to cool off. She admits that some partners may never agree to take part. "But you can always do it alone."

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Reality brings changes in religious congregation cohabitation policies

A story published by the Seattle Times reports that local spiritual leaders are loosening their stance on traditional policies  on cohabitation by acknowledging the upswing of unwed couples living together in their own congregations.

 "It would be safe to say that the classical Jewish tradition really looks very severely upon nonmarried couples living together," says Scott Sperling, associate rabbi at Temple de Hirsch Sinai. "But we're a Reform congregation, and we don't feel that way anymore."

In 1970, when the sexual revolution was already testing traditional religious views on marriage and sexuality, about 500,000 unmarried couples were living together in the United States. By 1990, that figure had ballooned to nearly 3.2 million. The recently released Census shows that nearly 5.5 million unmarried couples are living together.

 In the face of such trends, many faiths have ditched hard-line views for more welcoming attitudes. It's an approach churches and synagogues take despite oft-quoted statistics that say couples who live together are 50 percent more likely to split up -- a trend Sperling has seen often enough to vouch for its truth.

Religious leaders say they consider the very request for a blessed wedding an indication that a previously inactive couple wants to take their faith more seriously. Taking too strict a stance risks driving those couples away while ignoring their desire to commit to each other or be responsible parents.

"Usually when they get married they're likelier to join the synagogue, especially if they want to have kids," says Rabbi Dov Gartenberg of Congregation Beth Shalom.

Bill Gallant, communications director for Seattle's Catholic Archdiocese, concurs.

"The church isn't about condemnation; it's about helping people understand their faith and what the church teaches," Gallant says. He says the Archdiocese, noting the increasing number of wedding requests from cohabiting pairs, has launched efforts to create a formal policy to provide parishes with direction when such couples appear at their doorsteps hoping for the church's blessing.

"We want to make sure we embrace that opportunity." said Gallant.

At downtown Seattle's St. James Cathedral, 36 of the 71 couples who said vows last year were already living together, marriage coordinator Linda Carr says. While the Catholic Church would not approve, she says, there's nothing that can really be said or done.

"The fact that they are seeking a sacramental marriage in the church is the greater value," Carr says.

Change hasn't come easy for the orthodox, though. Some couples don't appreciate the open stance the church is taking toward their unwed brethren or that the subject is raised during marriage-preparation group sessions, a situation one mother recently called Carr to complain about.

"Her daughter was mortified that it was openly discussed," Carr said.

In November, the rising number of cohabiting couples, in addition to the perplexing issue of same-sex partners, has prompted the country's four largest Christian church groups to issue a joint declaration espousing conventional marriage. The coalition comprised the National Association of Evangelicals, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches and the Southern Baptist Convention.

"There is a tendency in our society for people to think they can trade in spouses," says Pastor John Hunter of First African Methodist Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.

"That whole notion of lifelong commitment is dwindling."

Despite their forgiving attitudes, the religious leaders who've adopted more open attitudes still push traditional values.

Friday, June 1, 2001

Louisiana bill to change sodomy law fails in House

A story published today by The Advocate reports that the Louisiana House came within six votes of passing a bill Thursday to legalize oral and anal sex between consenting adults behind closed doors.

The defeat came in spite of an attempt to revamp the law so it could still be used to arrest homosexuals who have sex acts in Baton Rouge parks.

Under Louisiana’’s current sodomy law, oral and anal sex are felonies, regardless of whether the participants are homosexuals or heterosexuals, and even if they are married to each other.

HB2036 by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, simply says that "sexual acts committed by and between consenting adults in private shall not be deemed as a crime against nature."

Rep. Tony Perkins, R-Baker, decried the bill as an attempt by homosexuals to "push the envelope."

"This legislation has nothing to do with what married couples do in their bedrooms -- and it has everything to do with legitimizing homosexuality," Perkins said.

During the debate, Perkins circulated a letter from Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Superintendent Gene Young, who expressed concern that Richmond’’s bill might complicate efforts to crack down on homosexual behavior in local parks.

"Our concern is that, in its current form, HB2026 allows such activity in ‘‘private,’’ but does not define ‘‘private,’’ Young said in the letter.

"It is unclear whether this language would permit this activity in a park restroom or toilet stall or even behind a tree," Young added.

To address the concerns voiced by Young, state Rep. Emma Devillier, D-Plaquemine, amended the bill to say that the sodomy ban still would apply if the acts occur in public places, "including but not limited to public parks and public restrooms."

But Perkins said that, even with the change, it’’s unclear whether oral and anal sex acts performed in cars would be considered to be in private -- even though they might be viewed by others.

Another opponent, Rep. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, also noted that the current law is also routinely used to arrest heterosexual prostitutes.

But Richmond noted that other laws on the book could be used to prosecute prostitutes.

Speaking in favor of the bill was Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, who noted that much of the opposition to Richmond’s bill was mounted on religious grounds.

"A lot of you have told me in private, ‘‘Man, I can't vote for this bill -- those religious people back home will kill me,’’" Martiny said.

Martiny said the law is not about gay rights, noting that married heterosexuals could be prosecuted under the current sodomy law.

"We need to show a little courage and stand up and say, ‘‘The current law doesn't make any sense,’’" Martiny said.

The bill failed by a vote 47-45. A majority of 53 votes is needed to pass a bill in the 105-member House. Twelve members did not vote.

Richmond said he intends to bring the bill up for another vote.

Sodomy laws on the way out

A story released today by the Bay Area Reporter reports that last May 14 the Louisiana House approved legislation that would do away with that state's"crimes against nature" law banning oral and anal sex between consenting adults. The new bill would add a sentence that reads, "sexual acts committed by and between consenting adults in private shall not be deemed as a crime against nature."

Earlier this year a New Orleans judge barred enforcement of the sodomy law citing it violated the constitutional right to privacy. The state appealed this ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which upheld the law once before. In addition, the Louisiana Electorate of Gay and Lesbians brought a suit against the law because it discriminates against gay men and lesbians. Although the law bans sodomy between partners of any gender, LEGAL attorney John Rawls claimed that gays and lesbians are more affected because the law "denies [same-sex partners] the right to have sex under any circumstances."

A Minnesota state court judge also struck down a similar state sodomy law prohibiting oral and anal sex between partners of any gender last May 18. Judge Delila Pierce ruled against the law, saying it was "unconstitutional, as applied to private, consensual, non-commercial acts of sodomy by consenting adults, because it violates the right of privacy guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution."

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the law on behalf of a group of citizens who believes that they are unfairly targeted by the law. According to ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project director Matt Coles, "This is a tremendous victory because of what sodomy laws do, but also because of what they say. Sodomy laws, because they are understood to primarily apply to lesbians and gay men, marginalize gay people and their pursuit of equal citizenship."

ACLU representatives are concerned that Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration may attempt to argue that the legal decision applies only to the current plaintiffs, and are urging that the ruling be certified as a class action case that applies to all Minnesotans.

South Carolina lawmakers bid to ban contraceptives to singles rejected

A story released today by Charleston .Net reports that the Republican efforts to ban the state from giving condoms and other birth control devices to unmarried South Carolinians were killed Thursday as leaders met to draft a budget compromise.

Another measure that would prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from assisting in abortion services was also defeated.

The Republican House and Senate members had wanted the stipulations added as part of agency budget allocations. But both efforts were overruled by Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman and other members of the Senate in the budget conference committee.

The primary reason was that federal law prohibits discrimination in regard to marital status, and enacting the ban on the unmarried could have jeopardized millions of dollars in health-related federal funds.

US Census reveals increase in single women

A story released today by Business Wire reports that the results of the 2000 US Census indicate that for the first time, the percentage of the population living alone (26%) is greater than the percentage of married-couple households with children, thus indicating that the single lifestyle has become normative among today's women. The current issue of BUST Magazine, which hits newsstands today, celebrates this trend in an issue entirely dedicated to single women.

"While it's been said that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle, we wanted to take a look at what single women's lives were really all about," said Editor-in-Chief Debbie Stoller. The issue offers an intelligent and candid look at today's solo gal, and features stories from single women of all stripes, including the satisfied and the dissatisfied, the straight and the gay, the old and the young.

"Many women who are in their late 20's and 30's grew up believing that they would be married by now," says Stoller. "So whether they are single by choice or not, these women are in the process of improvising new life paths for themselves. That's not easy, and we wanted to let them share their experiences with each other."

The 2000 census results also show that since 1990, the number of households with unmarried mothers has increased by 25%, and this growing female segment is represented in an article piece in the magazine profiling the nationwide network Single Mothers By Choice and the very personal stories of some of its members.

High divorce rates, longer life expectancy of women than men, and the dramatic rise of women's education and economic self-sufficiency are further societal trends delineated by the census data that suggest an exciting, evolving culture of women finding their own way in America. As the current issue of BUST proves, while these women may be single, they are certainly not alone

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