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U.S. News Archive
June 07 - June 13, 2001



This page contains news for the period June 07, 2001 through June 13, 2001.  

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Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Marriage loses its appeal to young adults

A story published today by the Bergen Record reports that a survey released by the Gallup Organization, commissioned by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University has found that marriage has lost its standing among today's young adults who no longer view marriage as a route to financial stability, parenthood, or religious affirmation.

Of those surveyed, 88 percent agreed there was a "special person, a soul mate, waiting for you somewhere out there," and 87 percent thought they would find that person when they were ready to get married.

The survey which was part of the project's wider "The State of Our Unions" report on marriage trends in the United States, was based on telephone interviews with 1,003 married and single men and women age 20 to 29 from January through March this year.

David Popenoe, who heads the Marriage Project and has devoted his career to revitalizing the institution of marriage, worries that today's expectations are so idealistic that they may inadvertently set off a new round of divorces as couples become disillusioned.

"It used to be that people looked for a marriage partner who would help with the tasks of life -- child rearing, bread winning, and homemaking -- and also hopefully be a good friend," said Popenoe. "This new standard, seeking an intimate relationship to resolve the isolation of today's fractured society, is unrealistic and may contribute to a high number of fragile marriages. Young people say they're desperate to avoid divorce, but they may be working against the very thing they're striving to achieve."

"Twenty-somethings are still romantic and idealistic, still want to find their soul mate and have the marriage of their dreams, so that's very good," said Diane Sollee, the founder and director of the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. "The bad news is if we keep operating on that premise, we will keep repeating the current trend of a very high divorce rate."

Others say the shift is the culmination of decades of social change, including women's growing financial independence.

"What's different now is that women are prepared to say, 'If I don't find a soul mate, I can provide for myself,' " said Stephanie Coontz, co-chairwoman of the national Council on Contemporary Families who is writing a book on the history of marriage. "What that means is that women can now afford to be as romantic about marriage as men have been."

The survey also revealed that:

42 percent of single young adults believe it is important to find a spouse of the same religion.

16 percent of young adults think the main purpose of marriage today is to have children. Six in 10 say it's acceptable for an adult woman to have a child on her own if she hasn't found the right man to marry.

More than eight in 10 young adults agree it is unwise for women to rely on marriage for financial security. More than 80 percent of women believe it is more important to have a husband who can communicate about his deepest feelings than to have a husband who makes a good living.

"For the text of the complete report issues by the Marriage Project at Rutgers University, click here."  http://marriage.rutgers.edu/TEXTOOU2001.htm

US teen pregnancy rate falls to a record low

A story released by the Associated Press reports that a government study released Tuesday reported that the teen pregnancy rate continued to fall, hitting a record low in 1997, the latest year for which complete figures are available. The abortion rate fell by nearly a third since 1990, also reaching a record low.

Researchers don't know why teens decide against having sex or to use birth control.

``That is almost wholly up to speculation,'' said researcher David Landry of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on reproductive health issues.

Those who support a greater emphasis on abstinence - telling teens to just say no to sex - tend to credit an increase in support for these programs, which saw a massive infusion of government money beginning in 1997.

Others believe the availability of birth control is key point to new, more reliable methods of contraception.

Other reasons speculated are: fear of AIDS has made teens more conscious about using condoms, and the strong economy has given them other options for their futures. Much of the decline comes from a sharp drop in second births to teen-agers.

No matter what the reason, it's clear that teen pregnancy rates are continuing to fall. The rate fell by 4.4 percent between 1996 and 1997, continuing a trend that has marched through the 1990s.

In 1997, about 9.4 percent of all girls ages 15 to 19 became pregnant - a total of 872,000 pregnancies. Fifty-five percent gave birth, 29 percent had abortions and the rest miscarried.

Pregnancy rates, however, are significantly higher in low-income communities, and black and Hispanic girls are more than twice as likely to get pregnant as white girls are. Still, the study showed that rates are falling among all races.

Most of the teen pregnancies are among 18- and 19-year-olds, though some 6.4 percent of girls ages 15 to 17 were pregnant in 1997. That's down 21 percent since the peak in 1990.

Overall, the teen pregnancy rate fell 19 percent in 1997 from its peak in 1991, and was the lowest since 1976, when the government began keeping records.

Census report shows jump in same-sex households

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that according to the first set of reports released by the U.S. Census 2000, U.S. households indicating same-sex partners has seen a dramatic increase over the past decade.

Although the report involved only two states -- Delaware and Vermont -- both of them showed a substantial change during the 1990s.

Same-sex couple households in Vermont, for instance, increased from an estimated 370 in 1990, to 1,933 in 2000, a fivefold jump, according to data released today by the Census Bureau. Delaware saw an even greater increase: up from an estimated 212 to 1,868 households, a nearly ninefold increase. These two states were the first to receive the latest wave of data from last year's national head count, with all 50 to get the Census Bureau material by late August.

Researchers attributed the increase to more gay couples feeling comfortable identifying their relationships than any big increase in such couples. Figures to be released for more crowded states like California will give a clearer picture of the nation's gay and lesbian population, said Urban Institute analyst Gary Gates.

Unmarried partner statistics in 1990 were based on a sample of responses; 2000 data are based on a count of all households. Nationally, unmarried partner homes, regardless of sexual orientation, increased 72 percent from 3.2 million in 1990 to 5.5 million in 2000.

Less than 5 percent of the country's unmarried partner households in 1990 were made up of same-sex couples. Comparable numbers for 2000 will not be known until all state figures are released.

Southern Baptists vow to stop "assault on family"

A story published today by the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Southern Baptists on Tuesday called for the strengthening of American families, starting with their own.

"Families are in crisis," the Rev. Tom Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., told the convention. "It's not just American families. It's Southern Baptist families as well. We believe it is time for us as a convention to decide that we're going to stand for the family in America."

Statistics from various sources cited in a report from the new Southern Baptist Council on Family Life include: A million children a year see their parents divorce. More than one-third of the country's children live apart from their biological fathers. Cohabitation by unmarried couples has increased almost 1,000 percent in the last four decades.

Elliff said the council plans to propose a specific strategy for dealing with the problems to next year's convention in St. Louis.

Rev. James Merritt, president-elect of the Southern Baptist church took up the theme in a rousing sermon that also touched on the importance of doctrinal integrity and the need to reclaim the culture. "There is an assault on the family today that is unparalleled in the history of the human race," he declared, "and much of it is self-inflicted."

Merritt made it clear that the family that needs to be saved is the one described in the Baptist Faith and Message, a revised denominational statement of faith that sees marriage as "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime," the husband as the head of the household and children as "a blessing and heritage from the Lord."

"We need to get back to the biblical understanding of marriage: that marriage is not a legal contract between two people that can be ended by a judicial decree; it is a divine covenant bound together in heaven that should never be broken before a holy God," Merritt said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Some Americans will not get a tax rebate

A story published today by the New York Times reports that more than one-quarter of all American adults will not get a tax rebate this year. Altogether, nearly 40 percent will not get the full amount of $300 for individuals and $600 for couples.

The main reason is that after deductions, exemptions and credits, these people owed little or nothing in income taxes, even though most of them paid Social Security and Medicare taxes.

The calculations showing the large number of taxpayers who will not get a rebate were made by Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal, nonprofit research institute that has the only computer model outside the government that can figure what the tax law signed last week by President Bush means for people at different income levels

Nationally, the study shows, 34 million American adults, or 26 percent, will get no rebate, and another 17 million, or 13 percent, will get less than the full rebate.

These are mainly people with incomes below $25,000.

"It's working families who are counting on a rebate the most who are the most likely to get nothing this year," said Representative Charles B. Rangel of Manhattan, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Under the law, a single person must have $6,000 in taxable income -- after deductions, exemptions and credits -- to be entitled to a full refund. A couple must have $12,000.

The rebate is based on the taxes people paid on their income in 2000. A couple with two children and a total income of $25,000 owed no income taxes and would get no rebate.

For people who owed some taxes but had taxable income of less than $6,000 ($10,000 in the case of a single parent and $12,000 for a couple) the rebate will amount to 5 percent of their 2000 tax bill.

Another group that will not get the rebate are people who earned enough to pay taxes but were claimed, or could have been claimed, as dependents by another taxpayer.

Although the rebate is based on taxes paid on income in 2000, it is actually a reduction in 2001 taxes. It is predicated on the part of the law that, beginning in 2001, the tax rate will be reduced to 10 percent from 15 percent on the first $6,000 of an individual's income, the first $10,000 of a single parent's and the first $12,000 of a couple's.

The Democratic staff of the House Ways and Means Committee has calculated that as many as five million low-income households with children will not get a rebate, although in later years they will be able to take advantage of the 10 percent rate.

Taxpayers who do not get the full rebate based on their 2000 taxes but earned more in 2001 will be able to claim whatever else is owed them when they pay their 2001 taxes early next year. But those who owe less in taxes in 2001 than they owed in 2000 will not have to repay the difference.

The Internal Revenue Service plans to send taxpayers letters in mid-July telling them the amount of the rebate they can expect and the week it will be mailed. All the checks will be sent by the end of September.

Monday, June 11, 2001

USDA reports increase child-rearing costs for U.S. families 

A story released today by Reuters reports that according to a recent report released by   the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American family with a child born last year can expect to spend about $165,630 for food, shelter and other basic necessities over the next 17 years, $5,000 higher than if the child was born in 1999.

Transportation, child-care, education and health-care costs increased the most for middle-income two-parent families, while clothing expenses saw a slight decline compared to 1999, an annual government report said.

Housing costs were the single largest per-child expenditure last year, averaging 33 percent of the total costs, followed by food at 17 percent.

Families living in the western United States will spend about $180,000 on their child, while households in the Midwest will spend about $156,000, according to the report.

When adjusted for inflation, the average family will spend $233,530 to raise a child.

USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion began publishing the report in 1960. USDA said the overall cost of raising a child, after adjusting for inflation, has increased 13 percent from 1960 to 2000.

Supreme Court puts a higher threshold on fathers for citizenship cases on overseas children born out-of-wedlock

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that Courts may set a higher threshold for fathers than mothers when deciding the citizenship of children born overseas and out of wedlock.

In a Texas case involving a man born in Vietnam to an American father and Vietnamese mother, the court narrowly ruled that setting such separate standards does not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution, given a mother' s natural role in childbirth.

"To fail to acknowledge even our most basic biological differences -- such as the fact that a mother must be present at birth but the father need not be -- risks making the guarantee of equal protection superficial, " said the majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The Texas father, Joseph Boulais and his son, Tuan Ahn Nguyen, had argued the law amounted to " sex-based stereotyping" and unlawful discrimination against men.

Government lawyers countered that Congress has broad authority to decide who is entitled to U.S. citizenship.

The ruling upheld a previous decision by a federal appeals court. Justice Kennedy was joined in the majority by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The two female justices, Sandra Day O' Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, along with Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

Federal immigration law automatically gives citizenship to children in Tuan' s circumstance if their mother is an American and has previously lived in this country for at least a year.

But if the father is American, the child can be considered a U.S. citizen only if the father legalized the relationship through a court order or sworn statement by the time the child turned 18, and if the father agreed in writing to support the child until adulthood.

Kennedy said that calling these rules stereotypes would " obscure ... prejudices that are real."

"The difference between men and women in relation to the birth process is a real one, and the principle of equal protection does not forbid Congress to address the problem at hand in a manner specific to each gender, " he wrote.

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Texas judge tells teen father of two to abstain from sex until married

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Texas judge angrily ordered a 19-year-old probationer who had fathered two children with two teen-age girls not to have sex until he is married.

"If you so much as have thoughts of getting another girl pregnant, you will go to prison for life or 99 years two times," state District Judge J. Manuel Banales told the young man. "You'll not get out of there alive. I want you to know that."

"He is fathering too many children for which he is not supporting," Banales said. "So, I told him he can father as many children as he wants as long as he establishes a marital relationship."

Robert Torres had been sentenced to five years' probation in 1999 after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. According to court records, the girl told authorities she was Torres' girlfriend when they had sex two times in the front seat of his car.

At an April 18 hearing to revoke his probation over violations that included smoking and drinking beer, Banales issued the no-sex order after learning Torres had fathered a daughter with a 16-year-old and had a child with a 17-year-old while serving the term.

Torres was also sent to jail for 30 days, and his probation was extended another five years.

The order was criticized by Torres' attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Bush quotes adulteress on marriage

A story published today by the Boston Globe reports that in a speech at the National Summit on Fatherhood, President Bush praised healthy marriages as ''incredibly important for children,'' and went on to quote a passage from George Eliot's 1859 novel, ''Adam Bede'':

''What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of last parting.''

The novel quoted by the president is about an English carpenter, Adam Bede, who marries a virtuous Christian after the woman he loves is deported to Australia for killing her out-of-wedlock child.

''If George Bush has read Adam Bede, I'd give him half my salary,'' said Jonathan Loesberg, a professor of literature and an Eliot scholar at American University. He added that Eliot, whose real name was Mary Anne Evans cohabited for 24 years with a married man, wrote with an unusual contempt for the notion that women were slaves to marriage.

''President Bush's decision to quote George Eliot, a woman who lived her adult life in a long-term, loving, unmarried relationship, only underscores our message: People always have and always will form both married and unmarried families,'' said Dorian Solot, executive director of the Boston-based Alternatives to Marriage Project.

A White House spokeswoman had no comment on the president's speech.

Friday, June 8, 2001

Military panel suggests repeal of UCMJ's sodomy clause

A story released today by the Washington Blade reports that a panel of legal and military experts assembled by the National Institute of Military Justice, a private, nonprofit organization, released a report last week calling on Congress to repeal a clause in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that outlaws acts of sodomy between consenting adults.

The 16-page report says the sodomy clause should be replaced with a "modern statute similar to the laws adopted by many states" and similar to an updated federal statue that applies to civilians.

The report was released May 30 by the Commission on the 50th Anniversary of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The five-member commission consists of a retired military court judge, a retired Navy captain, a retired Navy rear admiral, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, and a law school professor. The report addresses a number of legal issues pertaining to the military in addition to the sodomy statute.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which assists gay military personnel, called the commission's recommendation on the sodomy issue an important development that will help efforts by activists to change the law to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

When Congress adopted its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military in 1993, opponents of President Clinton's initial proposal to allow gays to serve openly reiterated that such a policy would be in conflict with the UCMJ's sodomy clause, which is known as Article 125.

"Repealing the [UCMJ sodomy clause] would eliminate one of the major roadblocks to lifting the ban on gay servicemembers," said SLDN spokesperson Steve Ralls.

Ralls said the commission report will "carry a lot of credibility" in military and legal circles because the commission members are considered highly qualified in their respective fields of military law.

"Of all the topics that appeared on the commission's long list of possible areas for consideration," the commission states in its report, "the issue of prosecuting consensual sex offense attracted the greatest number of responses from both individuals and  organizations. The commission concurs with the majority of these assessments in recommending that consensual sodomy and adultery be eliminated as separate offenses in the UCMJ and the Manual for Courts-Martial."

"[T]he well-known fact that most adulterous or sodomitical acts committed by consenting and often married (to each other) military personnel are not prosecuted at court-martial creates a powerful perception that prosecution of this sexual behavior is treated in an arbitrary, even vindictive, manner," the report states. "This perception has been at the core of the military sex scandals of the last decade."

The report adds, "[T]here remain instances in which consensual sexual activity, including that which is currently prosecuted under Article 125 S  may constitute criminal acts in a military context." The report says one such context would be sexual relations between officers and enlisted persons, which military authorities have long said disrupts order and discipline within the chain of command. The report says this type of situation can be addressed "without the use of provisions specifically targeting sodomy and adultery."

Divorce fathers plea for time with kids

A story released today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that last Tuesday, a nationwide protest was held by mostly divorced fathers complaining about the inequality of the court system when it comes to child custody rulings. Dubbed as "deadbolted dads," they complained that courts routinely give mothers custody of kids and then fail to act when ex-wives lock fathers out of their children's lives by ignoring visitation schedules.

"Court is where most divorcing fathers ... leave in a state of shock after discovering they have been reduced to a mere biweekly visitor to their children," says Dianna Thompson of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, which sponsored the protests.

The issue seems ripe for consideration. The National Fatherhood Initiative have just concluded a fatherhood summit in Washington, where organizers hoped to reach out to a range of men, including divorced and unmarried fathers.

At the same time, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recently met in Charlotte, N.C., to focus on child custody and visitation. "When the parties go to family court, one party loses," says M. James Toner, dean of the council. "Sometimes, even with the best intentions, the best interest of the child is sacrificed on the altar of acrimony."

The protesters yesterday offered a different vision for families of divorce: They call it shared parenting.

Under this scenario, parents share equally the custody of children - a move that Ms. Thompson says would require a family-law overhaul. According to the US Census, mothers presently win custody in 85 percent of cases.

Shared parenting, says Thompson, also increases financial support for children. According to the latest census data, fathers who have joint custody or shared parenting paid their child support on time in 90 percent of cases.

Family advocates see scattered signs of progress. Among the 3,000 US counties, 1,500 offer programs to help divorcing parents, says Sanford Braver, author of "Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths." Aimed at helping divorcing parents bury the hatchet, such programs are "changing the culture out there," he adds.

Noncustodial fathers like Mr. Wayne Torman of Mansfield, Mass., welcomes such steps. Holding his sign on the Foxboro bridge, he says that the family court system "really needs to change. It's gotta change."

Thursday, June 7, 2001

How tax cut would affect you

A story released today by the Associated Press cites some examples on how the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut package that was recently signed by President Bush will affect taxpayers in different situations. The examples are broken down by tax year and savings.

A new 10 percent rate applies to the first $6,000 of a single taxpayer's income, the first $10,000 for heads of households and the first $12,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

Examples were provided by CCH Inc., a publisher of tax information:

Single, no children, $30,000 income Savings: 2001: $300. 2006: $300. 2011: $300.

Single, no children, $100,000 income Other major benefits: reductions in other tax rates 2001: $628. 2006: $2,265 2011: $2,315.

Single, one child, $15,000 income Other major benefits: refundable child credit. 2001: $345. 2006: $445. 2011: $745.

Married, one spouse working, two children, $30,000 income Other major benefits: higher standard deduction, increased child credit. 2001: $740. 2006: $1,393. 2011: $2,322.

Married, both spouses working, two children, $50,000 income Other major benefits: increased child credit, higher standard deduction. 2001: $800. 2006: $1,116. 2011: $1,925.

Married, both spouses working, two children, $100,000 income Other major benefits: other rate reductions, higher child credit, adjusted 15 percent rate. 2001: $978. 2006: $2,796. 2011: $4,033.

Married, one spouse working, two children, $300,000 income Other major benefits: other rate reductions, marriage penalty adjustments, reduced exemption phaseout. 2001: $1,826. 2006: $9,790. 2011: $12,577.

White House Human Services nominee draws fire from critics

A story published today by the New York Times reports that President Bush's nomination of Dr. Wade F. Horn to a top position in the Department of Health and Human Services has drawn fire from feminists groups because of his belief that government should aggressively promote marriage as an ideal, especially for low-income families.

Many recent scholarly works and psychological studies embrace the view that stable families with two parents are critical to healthy child development. But some feminists, including some in the National Organization for Women, worry that Dr. Horn's emphasis on marriage and his preference for traditional two-parent families could divert money from single mothers and children to fathers or married couples, penalizing nontraditional families. They also worry that such views could pressure women to stay married to men who abuse them. 

Dr. Horn defended his views in a recent interview stating, "I don't want to trap women in a troubled marriage or an abusive relationship," he said. "I'm not suggesting we outlaw divorce or bring back shotgun marriages. And I have no interest in running a dating service for unwed fathers. But I do want to help couples develop the skills needed to sustain a healthy marriage."

Many Democrats, including some liberals, share Dr. Horn's view that the absence of fathers from children's lives is a major cause of social problems. And they say the Senate should confirm his nomination to be assistant secretary of health and human services for family support.

"Wade Horn is an honest broker who works effectively across party lines in the best interest of our nation's children," said Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, the chief Democratic spokesman on the issue.

As assistant secretary, Dr. Horn would have authority over welfare policy, child care, child support, foster care, adoption, Head Start and refugee services. He would also have a big say in debates over the landmark 1996 welfare law, which comes up for renewal next year.

Dr. Horn, the president of National Fatherhood Initiative, is a founder of the "fatherhood movement" and a strong advocate of public policies to encourage marriage.

"I have spent much of the last four years traveling around the country exhorting state officials to spend some of their welfare dollars on activities that promote marriage," Dr. Horn said. "Married fatherhood is the ideal. Radical feminists trumpet the demise of in-the-home fatherhood as a victory for the independence of the modern woman, but fathers make unique and irreplaceable contributions to the well-being of children."

Promoting marriage and fatherhood was supposedly a goal of the 1996 welfare law. But Dr. Horn said the objective had often been forgotten as state officials strove to move women from welfare to work.

Increasing child support collections was an excellent achievement, Dr. Horn said, but "money alone cannot make up for the absence of a father in a child's life."

In a paper published by the Hudson Institute in 1997, Dr. Horn said the government should "give preference to two-parent married households" when distributing benefits in limited supply, under programs like Head Start, public housing, job training and financial aid for education.

"If we want to revitalize marriage in low-income neighborhoods, we will have to reverse the current preference for single-parent households and favor married couples," Dr. Horn wrote. "Only after all income-eligible married, two-parent families are offered the benefit should it become available for income-eligible, single-parent families." 

Kathy Rodgers, president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, said: "Dr. Horn would ostracize any family that doesn't fit the mythical norm of a married mother and father, one daughter, one son, a dog and a cat. He's trying to teach moral lessons to adults, but in the process, children would be punished."

Dr. Horn's views do not fit any stereotype. In a newspaper column, he urged parents to accept gay children without trying to change their sexual orientation. He praises the Family and Medical Leave Act.

But Dr. Horn objects to premarital sex and cohabitation by unmarried adults. And he mocks the ideal of a nurturing father who shares equally in all child-rearing activities.

"The idea," he says sarcastically, "is that moms and dads should each be doing precisely 50 percent of the diapers, 50 percent of the burping and 50 percent of the bathing."

"Special allowance is made for the fact that men cannot be expected to do 50 percent of the breast-feeding -- although I'm sure some androgyny advocate somewhere is working to overcome even that little biological obstacle."

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