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



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

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Friday, July 13, 2001

Utah’s single dad population on the rise

A story released today by the Deseret News reports that according to the recently released 2000 Census report, single dads in Utah are starting to catch up with their female counterparts, as the number of men rearing children on their own almost doubled over the past decade.

In fact, the number of single fathers in Utah grew four times faster than the number of single mothers and faster than the national average. Nationally, the number of single-father households went up 62 percent; in Utah it went up 87 percent.

"I think for one thing, whether the courts will admit it or not, there has been a bias that it would always be in the child's best interest to be with the mother. That assumption is wearing out," said Russell Hathaway, who practices family law in Salt Lake City.

In 2000, 2 percent of all Utah households were led by single fathers. Comparatively, married couples with children at home made up 35 percent of all homes.

There were 13,674 men raising their own children without a mother in the home, up from 7,370 in 1990 and 3,645 of those fathers were rearing kids younger than the age of 3.

The number of households with women rearing children on their own went up by 21 percent to 40,329, a lower growth rate than the national average of 25 percent. In Utah in 1990, unmarried females living with children of their own younger than 18 accounted for 6.2 percent of households. In 2000, that number dropped slightly to 5.8 percent.

Utah was not alone in gaining more single fathers than the national average. Several states in the West had increases, including Nevada, which had a 126 percent increase. One reason could be that some parts of the country are simply catching up to national custody trends, Hathaway said. He says he's also seeing more single men choose to become parents through adoption.

A slightly larger percentage of single dads had children younger than 3 than did single moms. Nearly one-quarter of single fathers were rearing at least one child between the ages of 0 and 3. About half of all single dads had children between 6 and 11, and more than half had children between the ages of 12 and 17.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling stirs child-support debate

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that David Oakley, a 34-year-old father of nine who owed $25,000 in support, can be ordered not to father any more children during a five-year probation imposed in 1999. If he fails to comply with the court order, he would face a jail term of eight years.

The court's four male justices upheld the ban, while the three female justices dissented, saying that having children is a basic constitutional right.

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed dismay at the ruling, depicting Oakley as a scapegoat even though his conduct might be reprehensible.

"There's a long, ugly history of attempts by the government to control the reproduction of poor people," said Catherine Weiss, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project in New York.

Weiss said that Wisconsin has been among the most aggressive states in pushing low-income parents off welfare rolls. "Now they turn around and scapegoat the deadbeat dads," she said.

This is not the first time the ACLU has raised questions about child-support enforcement. The director of the ACLU's Virginia chapter, Kent Willis, objected last year when the state announced that it would immobilize the cars of deadbeat parents with pink and powder-blue car boots.

"This is part of a whole trend to reverse the way we do criminal justice to a system we were using in the 17th century," Willis said. "This is public humiliation."

"I've never understood the philosophy behind that," he said. "If you take away someone's ability to get to work, how are they going to be able to earn money to make their payments?"

Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, applauded the ruling. She contends that child-support statutes "are the least enforced laws in this country."

"The courts are very soft on this crime against children," said Jensen, whose advocacy group is based in Toledo, Ohio. "We would like to see child support taken as seriously as paying taxes."

Jensen called the Wisconsin decision "an extreme measure for an extreme situation, after they tried other ways to deal with it."

Child-support enforcement was strengthened throughout this country as a result of the welfare reform legislation enacted by Congress in 1996. Steps to streamline collection of payments and toughen penalties for deadbeats have boosted national child support revenues from $12 billion in fiscal 1996 to a record $18 billion in fiscal 2000.

"When we get to the point of taking away people's rights to procreate, absolutely we're going too far," said Dianna Thompson, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children in Lake Forest, Calif.

"When parents have problems supporting their children, we have different standards for mothers and fathers," she said. "We give mothers welfare and we give fathers jail."

Unmarried couples need to protect themselves when buying a home

A story released today by the Inman News Features reports that the benefits of home ownership are now just as tempting for unmarried couples as they are for those who are married. These days, even friends and relatives sometimes purchase a home together.

"Joint ownership can work successfully under most circumstances, but it's always smart to prepare for the unknown," says Richard Roll, president of the American Homeowners Association. "Joint home buyers need a plan or document to clarify what happens to their respective financial interests in the home should something unforeseen happen and they have to sell."

Typically, if one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the full owner of the home under joint tenancy with right of survivorship. In a divorce, the settlement provides the framework for deciding ownership.

But neither situation applies to unmarried couples, friends or relatives. Without some plan or document, the death or departure of one housemate doesn't make the other the full owner of the home.

One possible solution is sole ownership. If one person is paying the lion's share of the costs, title might be placed in that person's name only.

If multiple owners will have their names on the title, other decisions must be made.

One solution is by establishing a partnership agreement among the multiple owners. The agreement can spell out how the sale of the home would be handled in the event of a breakup.

Such an agreement might require the co-owners to use a mediator instead of going to court to resolve any disputes.

But since title laws vary from state to state, consulting a real estate attorney before embarking on an amicable solution would be appropriate.

Utah newspaper supports repeal of state sodomy law

The Salt Lake Tribune issued an editorial today supporting the repeal of Utah’s sodomy statute. The full text of the editorial appears below.

Attorney Brian Barnard is probably right. It will take a lawsuit to end Utah's unused, unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional sodomy law.

For some reason, the Utah Legislature wants the right to pry into the sexual practices of unmarried people over the age of consent. So the law remains on the books, though ignored until now. A prosecutor in American Fork is pursuing the first criminal case under the law in decades. The charge? An act of consensual oral sex between two teen-agers, one of whom has "an attitude" and the other of whom participated in the "illegal" act.

By the way, the one with attitude is the only participant being charged. How an outlawed consensual act between two people can only be illegal for one has not been explained by the prosecution.

While many citizens may not approve of the actions of these two teen-agers, the bigger question is whether government can or should prosecute citizens for consensual sexual practices, particularly when those actions are legal for other citizens. Under Utah law, married couples may do whatever they please. Unmarried couples who, by law, are old enough to consent to sex may only do what the Legislature determines is best for them. They can choose to have sex, but the Legislature will tell them how.

Outlawing a sexual act between consenting adults will not stop it from happening. The Legislature may not agree with the sexual practices of all citizens, but it has no business agreeing or disagreeing. Unless the act occurs in public or is not consensual, the Legislature and law enforcement should not become involved.

But Barnard is probably right. Rather than the Legislature repealing the law, it will take prosecution of a consenting adult, a mountain of legal costs and a declaration by the Utah Supreme Court before the sodomy law is finally overturned. What a complete waste of state and personal resources.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Researchers determined that genetics play a role in relationships

A story released today by BBC News reports that scientists have discovered a significant genetic influence on whether or not a marriage lasts.

New Scientist magazine reports that a team from Boston University in Massachusetts compared marriage and divorce rates in identical and non-identical male twins.

They took their data from a registry of male twins who served in the US military during the Vietnam war.

In interviews in 1987 - intended to diagnose mental disorders - some 8,000 of these twins stated whether they had ever married, whether they were still in their first marriage, and if not, how their first marriage ended.

The data revealed that identical twins, who share the same genes, were more likely to follow the same patterns of divorce than non-identical twins, who only share about half their genes.

The researchers say this suggests there is a significant genetic influence on divorce.

But the study also reveled that there was no difference between identical and non-identical twins when it came to whether or not they got married in the first place - suggesting this is entirely determined by your environment.

"That surprises me. So many traits - even very complex social ones - have a detectable genetic influence.", said researcher Dr. Michael Lyons. 

Dr. Lyons believes that genetic influence on divorce is related to factors such as drug abuse, depression and alcoholism, which have a genetic component.

The team found that twins who were pathological gamblers, for instance, were 2.8 times more likely to get divorced than the norm for the day.

Dr. Lyons said: "Almost any kind of psychopathology is going to make staying married harder."

"We know through counseling that people who are able to express their thoughts and emotions in a way that is not threatening to their partner are more likely to have long-lived marriages. It may be that this ability is down to a genetic predisposition." said Julia Coles, a psycho-sexual therapist and counselor for the Marriage Guidance Charity Relate.

She said genetic instinct might well explain the need for people to form partnerships, but not necessarily the decision to get married.

"The desire to love and be loved, and to want security is likely to have a very ancient origin.

"But marriage is a human construct, something that came about through the need of society to regulate human partnerships."

Appeals Court dismissess challenge to Utah’s anti-fornication law

A story published today by the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals released a ruling on a high-profile case Tuesday, dealing with the legality of Utah's anti-fornication law.

A three judge panel in Denver dismissed the case ruling that the case, which has been argued in Utah courts for a decade, never existed because attorney Brian Barnard failed to identify the five plaintiffs by name.

The five original plaintiffs -- three have since married, making their claims null -- feared prosecution because they were admitting to unmarried sexual relationships.

A federal judge said the five could not prove they were in danger of prosecution and dismissed the case. Barnard plans to refile in Salt Lake City.

More people are retiring as single people

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that advertising images portray the transition to retirement as a Noah's Ark-style venture, with happy couples venturing into their "golden" years two by two. But for a growing number of new and future retirees, this stage of life involves a solo journey. They are retiring alone. Some are divorced, others widowed. Still others have never married.

"Most retirement education and retirement planning, both financial and nonfinancial issues, is focused on couples," says Helen Dennis, a specialist in aging and retirement in Los Angeles. "The reality is that more and more people are retiring as single people."

While three-quarters of men age 65 and over are married and live with a spouse, only 45 percent of women do. More than a quarter of women in their late 50s and early 60s are either divorced or widowed, according to census figures.

At Sun City Grand, a planned community developed by the Del Webb Corp., the singles club boasts 170 members. Although women still outnumber men by a ratio of 4 to 1, more men have been joining in recent months.

"They love house parties and free food," jokes Al Olson, a widower who moved here last year, offering one explanation for the increase in male members.

Men, he observes, tend to be loners. "Women are more daring. They'll join things. I know from experience, you have to get out. Everybody is needing friends, needing companionship."

The increase in singles approaching retirement shows up elsewhere as well. When the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville, N.C., held its 10th annual retirement exploration weekend in May, 15 percent of the 156 attendees were single. This represents an increase over previous years, according to Ronald Manheimer, executive director.

As the first baby boomers turn 55 this year, gerontologists expect the ranks of older singles to continue to grow, making this an issue for women in particular.

"My perception, and it's a very strong one, is that singleness will be one of the biggest quality-of-life issues for women entering retirement in the millennium," says Christopher Hayes, director of the National Center for Women and Retirement Research in Southampton, N.Y.

Drawing on five years of research, Dr. Hayes finds that women entering retirement alone have specific challenges that are just beginning to be recognized.

One is economic. Women typically have not earned as much or saved as much as men. Their pensions are also smaller. Last year, 44 percent of men between the ages of 65 and 74 received pension income, compared with 26 percent of women in the same age group, according to AARP.

For single, never-married women, Hayes cautions, that will mean "providing financial and physical, hands-on care to an older parent without the benefit of sharing such responsibilities with a spouse."

Although men also become involved in caregiving, many tend to do tasks such as mowing the lawn and handling the finances, whereas women typically do hands-on care. "For the man, there's no need to leave the work world," says Nancy Dailey, author of "When Baby Boom Women Retire."  "The woman is much more likely to do that."

Despite the increase in singles, marketers continue to target retirement housing, products, and services to couples. A few ads picture a single woman, but almost never a lone man.

Hayes adds, "We are going to be living in a singles society, with many single older women. Companies are going to have to wake up to the reality that these women exist and that they have their own unique needs."

As baby boomers retire, Dennis expects to see "a whole different marketplace" catering to services for singles. The housing industry, she says, must develop living arrangements that accommodate the needs of single people. Shared housing cuts living costs and offers companionship.

Rebecca Adams, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, has studied women's friendships in retirement.

Before retirement, she found, single women who had always supported themselves tended to have little time for friendships. Married women typically had a wide network of friends. They had often invested considerable time in their husband's career and participated in church and community organizations.

In retirement, married women tended to narrow their friendships and focus on a few close friends, Ms. Adams says. "When single women retire, they do just the opposite, joining organizations and expanding their friendships."

For Barbara Lawson, the move from Sherman, Texas, to Sun City Grand in April was tinged with bittersweet elements. Two years ago, her husband died. Last year, her job as a regional manager at AT&T in Dallas was cut.

Lawson echoes the comments of other singles when she says, "I'm learning to live alone, but not be lonely. I'm trying to find the joy in being myself as a person."

North Carolina children less likely to live with married parents

A story published today by the Charlotte Observer reports that North Carolina children are less likely to live with married parents than they were in 1990, according to 2000 census figures being released today.

Despite a decade of attention to marriage and fatherhood, only 64 percent of N.C. children under 18 were living with married parents in the latest tally, compared with 68 percent in 1990.

The drop occurred in all racial and ethnic groups, although black children remain far more likely than others to live in single-parent homes. 

Union County, just east of Charlotte, was among four counties with at least three-quarters of kids in married-couple homes, but neighboring Anson County was among a handful where the rate was less than half. Mecklenburg fell in the middle, at 66 percent.

"We'll never again be able to assume that most kids will be raised in marriage," said family historian and author Stephanie Coontz, who co-chairs the national nonprofit Council on Contemporary Families.

She and others warn against drawing simple conclusions. Single parents are more likely to live in poverty, but marriage isn't an automatic out, many experts say. And despite the drop in married-parent families, several measures of child well-being improved during the 1990s, including a major reduction in teen pregnancy.

All the numbers show is "that the American face is changing," said Andrea Engber of Cabarrus County, founder of the National Organization of Single Mothers and an Observer columnist.

"What we would be smart to do," she said, "is recognize it and try to meet the needs of every family group."

From 1880 to 1970, about 85 percent of American children lived with two parents. That rate plunged with the divorce boom of the '70s, and has declined ever since. In 1996, about 69 percent of U.S. children lived with married parents, according to a Census Bureau survey that asked more detailed questions of a smaller sampling of families.

The 1990s brought mass rallies and grassroots movements calling for men to recommit to fatherhood and for society to promote strong marriages.

In Charlotte, several agencies joined to launch a Fatherhood Resource Center. Director Franklin McCrary Jr. says he's all for boosting marriage rates, but it's not realistic to expect that everyone will marry. It's equally important to help unmarried fathers love and support their kids, he said.

Still, some find the trend away from marriage disturbing. Numerous studies have shown that children raised by both parents are less likely to be poor and more likely to succeed in school.

Include race into the mix and the issue becomes even more problematic. While all races saw married parenthood decline, the 2000 census found white children remain more than twice as likely as black ones to live with married parents.

In Mecklenburg County, 38 percent of black children live with married parents, compared with 82 percent of whites.

Dennis Orthner of UNC Chapel Hill's Jordan Institute for Families says the racial gap points up a need to revamp public policy.

African American men will marry in greater numbers when their job prospects improve, he said, and that means offering men the same education and job opportunities that single mothers have gotten with welfare reform.

A sizable minority of N.C. children - 19 percent of black children, 17 percent of Hispanics and American Indians, and 7 percent of whites and Asians - are listed as living with grandparents, other relatives or unrelated adults.

That includes children in foster care and informal adoption, but also extended families and home-sharing arrangements in which the parents are present. If a parent is not the householder, the kids show up as living with someone else.

Home-sharing is especially common among recent immigrants who can't afford single-family housing, said Manuel Mendoza, executive director of Charlotte's Latin American Coalition.

Thus, the census may underestimate the number of immigrant children living with one or both parents. But Mendoza said immigrants also face strains that can break up a family.

"I'm going to have to work two or three jobs," he said, describing a new arrival.

"That doesn't allow me to be a good parent; that doesn't allow me to have energy for my family."

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Minnesota Appeals Court rules engagement ring must be returned

A story released by the Star Tribune reports that the Minnesota State Court of Appeals has ordered Gina Benassi to return her engagement ring to her estranged boyfriend, Randy Miland. The appeals court stated that regardless of who was at fault for their failed relationship the engagement ring must be returned to its donor.

In his opinion, appeals court Judge G. Barry Anderson wrote, " An engagement ring is a conditional gift, given in contemplation of marriage; marriage is an implied condition of the transfer of title to the ring, and the gift does not become absolute until the marriage occurs."

But the appeals court decided that a lower court erred when it dismissed sexual harassment charges that Benassi issued against Miland. Benassi was fired from the chiropractic clinic where she worked under Miland three years after their breakup.

Utah man contests state's sodomy law

A story published by the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the prosecution of Utah resident Derrick Sundquist who had admitted to having consensual oral sex with a 16-year-old girl last year could open the door for a successful challenge of Utah's anti-sodomy laws, according to a Salt Lake City civil-rights attorney who has fought to overturn the statute for more than a decade.

In recent years, several Utah judges have tossed out lawsuits challenging sodomy and fornication laws, saying that because people are seldom, if ever, prosecuted, plaintiffs are not in imminent danger of going to jail for having intimate sexual relations.

"The judges have said there is no real threat and, therefore, it's a theoretical debate," said attorney Brian Barnard, who has filed an amicus brief in Sundquist's case on behalf of the Utah Civil Rights and Liberties Foundation Inc.

Sundquist, then 19, was charged last year with class B misdemeanor sodomy for having oral sex with a 16-year-old girl. Although prosecutors allege the girl performed fellatio on Sundquist at his home last year, she has not been charged with a similar crime.

"It would be one thing if people were regularly charged with this crime, but no one has been charged for years,"Sundquist’s attorney, Laura Cabanilla said. "It's a little silly that they would try to prosecute someone for having oral sex performed on them."

Cabanilla added that she could not find a single instance where a person has been charged in decades with sodomy. During a motion hearing in American Fork next week, Cabanilla plans to call prosecutors from Salt Lake County, Utah County, Orem, Provo and Spanish Fork to ask them if they have ever charged anyone with sodomy.

"I have already asked them and they've all said 'no,' " she said. "This is clearly a case of selective prosecution."

Sodomy was outlawed even for married couples until 1977, when the law was changed to include only the unmarried. People convicted of sodomy face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

In his friend of the court brief, Barnard argues that sodomy between unmarried, consenting adults is a violation of privacy and free expression. He says that sexual acts are the most meaningful way one person expresses love to another.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart dismissed the case, ruling that the four unmarried Utahn plaintiffs who sued to scrap the laws, saying they feared being jailed for having intimate relations could not prove they were in immediate threat of being prosecuted. In March, Barnard appealed the ruling before a three-judge panel of Denver's 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel took the oral arguments under advisement. It is not known when it will rule.

The anti-fornication and sodomy laws have been stricken in some states by judges who have deemed them unconstitutional. Lawmakers in other states have scrapped the laws while overhauling their criminal code and killing outdated, unenforced laws.

Barnard is convinced it will be a court, not Utah lawmakers, that eventually removes the laws.

Monday, July 9, 2001

Census shows single college graduates returning home to live with parents

A story published today by the Daily Texan reports that according to the recently released United States Census, about eighteen million Americans ages 18 to 34 still live with their parents after graduating college.

They have been termed "Boomerangers" by American Demographics Magazine, which attributes the trend to the economy and an uncertain job market.

"I think it has to do with the economic situation in this country. Things that were basic necessities that used to be inexpensive now cost much more," said Cecilia Dean, the mother of three grown children who still live at home. "In the 1960s, I could buy a car for just a fifth of my salary. Today, utilities take up about 20 percent of it. Young people starting out have difficulty meeting financial demands like that."

A March poll taken by Jobtrak.com, a job-listing database, found that about 56 percent of college students graduating in 2001 plan to live with their baby-boomer parents for some amount of time.

Some sociologists are not convinced that "Boomeranging" is a consistent trend.

"The weird thing is that the economy really only got worse only at the end of last year," said Kelly Raley, UT assistant professor of sociology. "Part of the reason for the Census figure could be that people 18 to 34 years are not as likely to be married and married couples almost never live with parents."

Frances Goldscheider, a professor of sociology at Brown University, said the trend is "real" in that young people are more likely to live with their parents in the post-college years now than in the past because, on average, they marry later.

"Lousy jobs and high rents deter marriage and living independently unmarried," Goldschieder said. "What we need is a good study about how long it takes to get a good job with good benefits, and my sense is that it's taking longer. When I ask students, they say they would go home if they needed to, whereas in the '70s and '80s, they'd look at me like I was crazy."

In her research, Goldscheider said she found that from 1930 to 1985, about 60 percent of college-age people lived at home.

This also shows the need for some parents to be able to designate an unmarried adult child as a beneficiary for health benefits at the parent's workplace.

Sunday, July 8, 2001

How grandparents can help during divorce

A story released today by MSNBC News reports that watching an adult child go through a divorce can be extremely difficult, and it’s quite natural to have parental instincts towards them to be protective and to take sides. But during this time, older adults need to consider their role as grandparents as well. Parenting expert Dr. Ruth Peters of the Today show gives advice to grandparents on how they can play a critical role in maintaining stability in a child’s life during the turmoil of divorce.

Offer Help

Grandparents should offer to help in whatever way they are able to. For some, that might mean offering financial help and for others it could include providing a temporary place to live or taking over carpool duties for awhile.

During a divorce, parents often find their schedules in disarray or they simply have an increased need to have time for themselves. In either case, make sure your children don’t take advantage of you willingness to care for their kids. Your adult children should know while you are absolutely willing to help out during this difficult time, you can’t put your entire life on hold to take care of their needs around the clock.

Give grandkids your time

Being a constant, reliable and reassuring presence in your grandchild’s life can be enormously helpful at time when their parents, while well intentioned, may be distracted by work commitments, and their own emotional issues.

For long distance grandparenting, stay in touch with phone calls, emails, pictures and any other means of communication you might have. Even if you can’t be there physically, children should be reassured that your role in their life is constant.

Don’t take sides

Don’t take sides in front of the grandchildren. Grandparents need to decide what’s more important: expressing your opinion to the world, being right, or maintaining a relationship with your grandchild.

The child will always have two parents and a grandparent should never disparage the other party in way in which the grandchild will be aware of. Not only are there issues of a child’s love and loyalty to each parent but, if the other parent feels you would not be a neutral presence in their child’s life, they may work against having you around.

It may also be helpful to have a discussion with the other parent and let them know your only concern is the love for the child and that you will refrain from being anything but neutral about the divorce in their presence.

Wisconsin lawmakers proposes bill to simplify divorce

A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that a bipartisan group of state legislators is pushing for a change in Wisconsin's divorce laws that would make it easier for couples with no children and limited assets to end their marriages amicably.

The proposed "simplified divorce law" is aimed at couples who have been married for five years or fewer, who don't own property and whose combined income is $40,000 or less. Under the legislation, which already is law in other states, people could get a quick and easy divorce without hiring attorneys.

"There are many, many people out there who want to get divorced, and need to get divorced, and just cannot afford to do so," said Rep. Tony Staskunas (D-West Allis), primary author of the bill that is co-sponsored by 12 lawmakers from both parties.

The proposal would limit the amount of paperwork those seeking self-litigated - or pro se - divorce cases would have to fill out. Under current law, couples seeking a pro se divorce may have to wade through 40 to 50 pages filled with legalese.

Staskunas said the new law would reduce the amount of paperwork, make that paperwork more self-explanatory, and it would require counties to distribute brochures explaining simplified divorces.

"Often what happens is (a couple) will come in, not knowing what they're doing, and the judge will have to sit with them and help them work through who gets what. That takes up a lot of time," said Staskunas, a lawyer who has practiced family law.

"So, these people have filed for divorce, don't know what they're doing and have gummed up the works. And it drops in the judge's lap. Somebody's got to unravel the mess, and they're the last stop on the process."

Not every couple seeking a divorce in Wisconsin would be eligible for this new "do-it-yourself" divorce. If passed, couples would be required to meet certain criteria before being allowed to seek a divorce, including:

An agreement by both parties that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The couple have been married five years or less.

No children were born or adopted to the couple.

Neither person owns real estate.

The fair market value of their assets is less than $20,000.

Their combined annual gross income is less than $40,000.

Staskunas said the typical couple he sees benefiting from the law would be: "Young kids - maybe 21, 22 years old - who are just starting out in life. It's their first job, nobody really made much money yet, but they decide to get married. Then, after a year or so they decide this is just really a bad mistake. There's very little money involved, no kids. I really think that's who it's going to be designed for."

Staskunas said the bill could come before the Assembly's Committee on Family Law in August or September

Saturday, July 7, 2001

Book written by AASP members stirs controversy

A story published today by the Star Tribune reports that a book written by two retired Lutheran bishops about human sexual fulfillment is stirring controversy, anger and delight from different groups.

"Sexual Fulfillment for Single and Married, Straight and Gay, Young and Old," was written by the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and the Rev. Lowell Erdahl, bishop emeritus of the St. Paul Area ELCA Synod.

Their main theme is simple: Sex is a gift from God. We are all sexual beings and need to find loving, life-affirming ways to express and experience our sexuality.

The book is full of down-to-earth advice, while laced with biblical interpretations and theological teachings.  The book which touches on traditional marriage and building relationships, also focuses on single people. For singles, the authors believe that "self-pleasuring" is a legitimate outlet for some people. They also are convinced that the church needs to allow for blessings of same-gender relationships that are the equivalent of heterosexual marriage and the ordination of fully qualified gay and lesbian persons in faithful relationships.

The authors also responded to the following questions by the newspaper via e-mail:

Q:You say in your conclusion that you know how divisive the subject of sex is. So why did you do the book?

A:We wrote it to encourage life-giving sexual fulfillment. In our book we affirm God's good gift of sexuality and seek to correct misunderstanding and injustice that hinder such fulfillment. We hope and pray that our sharing will bring people together to discuss these issues and that greater unity and less divisiveness will be the result.

Q:You chide the church for its failures in teaching about sex, and you point out how biblical passages have been misinterpreted over the centuries. Do you honestly believe the church can change its teachings on sex?

A:Yes. Just as it has done concerning slavery, racism, divorce and remarriage, the role of women, charging interest on loans and other issues. Through long study of scripture and learning from the witness of many, including gay and lesbian Christians, our minds have been changed. We believe that what has happened in us can, and should, happen to others in the church.

Q:You favor blessing same-sex unions, and you know that will be controversial. Explain briefly how you came to that conclusion.

A:Through long and careful Bible study we have come to believe that verses that condemn sinful, exploitative same-sex activity (largely, if not exclusively, by persons of heterosexual orientation) say nothing concerning either homosexuality as we understand it today, or concerning faithful Christians in committed same-sex relationships. We tend to favor avoiding words like marriage and wedding, and so forth, when same-gender persons commit themselves to a lifelong relationship that is the moral and emotional equivalent of heterosexual marriage. We think the term "holy union" or something like it is more appropriate.

Q:What kind of reaction have you received so far to the book?

A:Most of it has been positive and affirming. Several have commented on how it combines the traditional and the innovative. Bishop Peter Rogness of the Milwaukee Area Synod of the ELCA commends us for addressing "questions and issues we all live with." A few reactions have been very negative and accuse us of abandoning the Bible, if not the faith, and of giving the devil reasons to celebrate.

The Church Council and all 65 bishops of the ELCA have called for church-wide study of these issues, as have leaders of other churches. The book has an appendix of "Questions for Reflection and Discussion" for use in congregational forums and study groups. If what we have written helps prompt serious thinking and respectful conversation concerning vital issues of human sexuality we will be grateful.


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