Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Marriage loses its appeal to
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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,"
Tuesday, June 12, 2001
Some Americans will not get a tax
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The order was criticized by Torres' attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bush quotes adulteress on
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
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
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
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 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
Examples were provided by CCH Inc., a publisher of tax
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:
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
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
"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
Dr. Horn, the president of National Fatherhood Initiative, is a founder of the
"fatherhood movement" and a strong advocate of public policies to encourage
"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
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,
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
"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."