Monday, August 6, 2001
ACLU attorney comments on
proposed constitutional amendment
A commentary written by Jay Kaplan, a staff
attorney of the ACLU discusses the proposed constitutional amendment. The full
article appears below.
In the guise of protecting tradition, the conservative right wing has created a new way to
discriminate against gays and lesbians by proposing the Federal Marriage Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution. The principal justification cited by the proponents of this amendment
is that it will preserve what they regard as the traditional understanding of marriage.
But tradition by itself is not an important government purpose. If it were, sex
discrimination would be quite permissible. Discrimination against women and minorities has
a pedigree in tradition at least as long and time-honored as that of discrimination
against same-sex couples in marriage. Yet, we seem to be able to move beyond
discriminating on the basis of gender and race.
Truly, the core of this proposal is terribly flawed. By preventing same-sex couples
from marrying, the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment will in no way strengthen or
promote the institution of marriage. Such discrimination only makes the stability and
benefits of marriage available to fewer people. This amendment is far from being carefully
drawn, measured or centrist, as some claim it to be. In reality, it would eliminate an
individual's liberty or a state's ability to adopt stronger civil rights protections.
When marital status was added to Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prevent
discrimination, it was with both married and unmarried couples in mind. But the Federal
Marriage Amendment would remove crucial protections against discrimination from any state
law or local ordinance for unmarried couples -- heterosexual and homosexual alike.
The proposed amendment would go much further than prohibiting a civil marriage license
to a same-sex couple -- which, like all other states, Michigan already does.
Currently, Michigan has no specific prohibitions on unmarried relatives, heterosexual
couples and unrelated clergy members to adopt or provide foster care. Passage of this
amendment would, however, undermine all existing laws in these areas and alter the ability
of all unmarried individuals to provide a home for children.
Additionally, it would prevent our state government from passing any legislation that
might provide domestic partnership recognition or benefits to unmarried couples,
heterosexual or same-sex. For example, Ann Arbor's ordinance provision, which provides for
the registration of domestic partners, would be rescinded and all local community
governments would be prohibited from legally recognizing relationships outside of married,
The hardship that would result is undeniable since we live in a society that attaches
enormous civil and legal consequences to marriage. For example, a person's ability to keep
the home she or he has shared with a partner for 20 or more years could depend on their
marriage status, especially if the partner dies without a valid will.
And a person's ability to care for a sick or dying partner in most health care
facilities also depends on whether they are married.
Most state laws treat partners who are not married as strangers. It is fundamentally
unfair to say on the one hand that you must marry to be treated as next of kin, and then
to tell an entire class of Americans who are next of kin in every real sense that they may
not marry or that their marriage will not be legally recognized.
During last year's presidential campaign, Vice President Dick Cheney, hardly a liberal
gay-rights activist, said that people should be free to enter into any kind of
relationship they want. "I don't think that there should necessarily be a federal
policy in this area," he said.
I agree. A committed, loving relationship between two consenting adults, regardless of
their sexual orientation, poses no threat to the institutions of marriage and family. Our
Constitution should never be carelessly tampered with to satisfy the intolerant and
narrow-minded viewpoints of those who would deny all protections to the most personal
decisions made by millions of families.
Saturday, August 4, 2001
Single-mother growth declines in
A story published by the Detroit News reports that the number of Michigan children living
with single mothers was almost unchanged in the 1990s, reversing one of the state's most
troubling social trends and adding fuel to the debate over the decade's welfare reforms.
Some researchers and conservative commentators say the numbers help prove the changes are
accomplishing one of their big goals: slowing the formation of single-mother families.
But many experts warn it's too soon to say why single motherhood has stopped expanding.
Critics argue the demographic shift is due not to policy change, but to other factors
including the rise in single fatherhood, women choosing to remain childless and the
unprecedented economic boom of the last decade. And not all single mothers have turned to
The debate is likely to get louder next year when Congress considers whether to reapprove
or modify the 1996 welfare-reform law.
Whatever the reasons, the numbers released today are good news for a state that has
struggled as much as any in the nation with the difficulties single moms face.
In 1990, among cities with 5,000 or more children, five Michigan cities were among the top
11 in the nation in the percentage of their children living with a single mom. Detroit,
where 45.5 percent of children lived in such households, was by far the leader among large
cities. In Detroit, Benton Harbor, Flint, Saginaw and Highland Park, the numbers rose
explosively in the 1960s and '70s, and more slowly, but consistently, until 1990.
The 2000 census found 19.6 percent of Michigan children in single-mom households. The
percentage is virtually unchanged since 1990, an amazing turnaround for a state where the
number of such households more than doubled from 1970 to 1990. Percentages fell
substantially in Detroit, Highland Park and Benton Harbor, but rose slightly in Flint and
Experts on child and family issues said the numbers are reason for optimism, because urban
single-motherhood is one of the nation's most vexing social problems.
While many children of single mothers are happy, healthy and well cared-for, on average,
they face obstacles much greater than those for other families. The children of single
mothers are more likely to live in poverty, to be without health insurance, to fare poorly
in school and to face trouble with the law more than other children.
To many conservatives, welfare policy was responsible for much of the problem. That's why
the federal welfare-reform bill of 1996, and efforts in Michigan and other states, were
crafted to eliminate the guarantee of benefits to all poor mothers. The thinking: Remove
the guarantee of cash payments, make single motherhood that much less attractive an
option, and women will begin to avoid it in larger numbers.
So, federal laws were changed to put time limits on cash benefits, and to force recipients
to work or lose their benefits. In Michigan, the Engler administration pushed the end of
general-assistance welfare through the Legislature in 1991; changes in 1994 forced
recipients to get jobs or enroll in training programs.
Some researchers say those efforts are beginning to work.
In fact, there is evidence in more than just census numbers. A new study by the Center on
Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, also found a declining number of
children living with single mothers in the '90s. The survey's authors used data from the
Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, an annual nationwide sampling of the U.S.
The study found a decrease in children with single moms starting in 1995 -- just before
federal welfare reform took effect.
But Allen Dupree, one of the study's authors, warns against jumping to conclusions.
"Anybody who writes definitively that welfare reform is responsible is overstating
the data," Dupree said. "We have to be cautious -- there are a number of
policies and factors at work."
Dupree and others point to several factors that could be contributing to the slowing
growth in single motherhood:
* The booming economy.
* The emergence of different family types.
* Social trends unconnected to welfare.
* The role of chance, instead of choice.
* The difficulty in analyzing the numbers.
Friday, August 3, 2001
The hardships of being a single
A story published by the Union News reports that being a
single parent is not an easy job to do. It's a demanding, full-time job and the hardest
thing about it is that there is no letup.
"You don't have a backup and there is no point when you can take time off or tell
someone else to take over. It can be wearing," said Anthony E. Wolf, a licensed
clinical psychologist in Longmeadow and author of five books, including, "Why Did You
Get a Divorce and When Can I Get a Hamster?"
Two things are critically important to a single parent's mental health, he said. They
are to have some time alone, and to develop a support system.
Although it may require a lot of planning, "It really is important to try to build
in time for yourself, so you are not alone with the kids 100 percent of the time,"
Single parents often become overwhelmed and resentful due to the responsibility of
having to make all the decisions about the children by themselves. "It is very useful
and important to have a network of people to talk to. It can be composed of family or
friends with children the same age, not so much to help you, but so that you don't feel so
alone," Wolf said.
Many single parents also worry about not having an opposite sex person in the child's
life. Not to worry, Wolf said.
"It's nice for kids to have a second parent as it gives them a different adult to
have a long-term relationship with. But you don't need to worry about their development if
there is not an opposite-sex person in their life," Wolf said. "Gender roles are
developed more than adequately by the culture."
Since the amount of time and energy a single parent has is limited, "it means you
have to look deep in your heart and decide what things are most important to you,"
Wolf said. "Many parents decide that school work is important, but that they can give
up having children keep their feet off the couch or keep their rooms neat." It might
be preferable if they did these things, but you'll be less stressed if you don't have so
many expectations, he added.
Single parents also can have trouble dealing with sibling rivalry. "If you are
going to intervene when your children are fighting, never take one child's side over
another. Just separate them," Wolf said.
"The only exception is if there is potential harm involved, which doesn't mean
hitting or pushing. Don't ever listen to their story of what went on, because then you are
engaged. Just separate them and it will teach them to work things out themselves."
Children also constantly test parents, and behavior problems can seem daunting to a
parent who is alone. When a child refuses to do something, "Say what you have to say.
Expect the child to talk back, but don't pick up on it," Wolf said. "If you do,
the child will keep on talking back or pleading. If you respond to it, you are just
pouring fuel onto the fire."
New York state single-parent
households on the rise reflecting nationwide trend
A story published by the Poughkeepsie Journal reports that
the number of single-parent households -- defined as those households made up of one adult
with children younger than 18 -- grew between 1990 and 2000 at the local, state and
As a percentage of all families with children, married couples make up the bulk at 77
percent in Dutchess County, New York and 70 percent in Ulster, New York. That's down
Women head of households with children account for 17 percent of all
households in Dutchess County. Men, on the other hand, account for about 5.5 percent of
the overall total.
But the number of single men with children in their homes increased more than 70
percent in the last decade while women-led households increased 20 percent since 1990.
The growth of single-parent households also means additional strains on families.
''The stresses on families right now are enormous, especially on single parents,'' said
Susan West, executive vice president of Family Services Inc. ''People are just completely
stressed to the max.''
Family experts said single parent families need ''concrete'' services -- child care,
transportation, after-school programs and lunch programs.
And many single parents need such services to be accessible in terms of geography and
time of day.
Ozie Williams said she has been separated for more than a decade, but only divorced for
two years. She's raised her two sons without a father.
''It's extremely hard,'' she said. She worked long hours to ensure she kept her job,
but she worked just as hard at being involved in her children's lives.
And while she worries about a role model for her sons, she said the separation brought
peace and quiet into their lives.
''It's better for kids to be in a household without a lot of conflict,'' she said. ''I
don't think parents should stay together for the kids' sake.''
Wisconsin lawmaker proposes
Marriage 101 to be added to state's curriculum
A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
reports that managing a family budget, conflict resolution skills and even diaper changing
could join the quadratic equation and Shakespeare in Wisconsin's middle and high school
curriculum under a provision in the new state budget.
Social scientists say the measure, which adds instruction in marriage and parental
responsibility to Wisconsin classrooms, is part of a burgeoning national movement to
encourage stronger family formation at a time when more students are being raised in
Rep. Carol Owens (R-Oshkosh), who proposed the provision, says the intent is simply to
bridge the "basic skills" gap between students who grow up in traditional
households and those raised by one parent.
"There are some things that kids just aren't learning at home anymore," Owens
said. "They can't balance a checkbook, and they don't know the skills that are
necessary when it comes to a relationship like marriage."
Continuing a 30-year shift away from the "Ozzie and Harriet" family model,
the number of single-parent households nationally grew 32% in the past decade, according
to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Wisconsin, the number of households headed by single fathers jumped 79.8%, to 42,757
from 23,779 in 1990. The number of single-mother households in the state falls below the
national average of 7.2%, but the increase here in the past decade was 18.5%, to 128,952
Owens said if schools teach students about human sexuality, they should take the short
leap from there into marriage and parental responsibility, particularly when they're
grooming a generation most familiar with the nuclear families viewed on TV.
Florida was the first state to require a course in relationships and marriage for all
high school graduates, and similar programs exist in California and New York.
Under Owens' plan, the extra instruction would be woven into already existing health
courses, and school boards would be left to determine the extent of their new programs.
Gov. Scott McCallum is currently reviewing the budget and may veto several provisions
before the final plan is developed.
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers
University in New Jersey, describes marriage and relationship education as a
"It isn't necessarily the magic-bullet solution to poverty or other chronic
problems that affect a lot of people when marriage dissolves," she said. "But,
on the other hand, the idea is a promising one."
North Carolina singles
group offers an alternative to meet people
A story published today by the Morning Star reports that like any other places, North
Carolina offers an entire array of groups and organizations that would help singles meet
and interact with other singles in the community.
"I have a rule. I never date anybody I meet at a bar because they're all
freaks," says Johanna Klingenberger. "And people who say grocery stores are good
places to meet men are crazy."
However, not everyone takes such a harsh view of the bar scene. Some liken light
glistening off of liquor bottles to the light breaking in yon window where Juliet stands.
"It depends on your goals," said Shawn Matthews, a bartender at Firebelly
Lounge. "If you want someone easy to go with, fun and not serious, a bar is a great
"It's difficult to meet people if you don't like bars, that music beating down on
you. (Singles clubs) take the pressure of a bar scene away," said Wayne Chalmers,
president of the Wilmington Singles Club.
One of the reasons that organization was founded was to give people an alternative to
their regular nightspots. Mr. Chalmers found that many people don't like the noise or
eye-irritating smoke in bars. Some, cringe at the thought of gazing across the room at a
mysterious figure only to lose focus in a thick haze of cigarette smoke.
Singles clubs, on the other hand, are a more wholesome option to bars but can still be a
lot of fun. Mr. Chalmers' members go on picnics and to ball games, yet most of their
activities center on dancing.
In one night, the group of single men and women, most in their 40s and 50s,will shag, line
and ballroom dance to a DJ's selections.
The new SeaSide Singles group for ages 40 through 60 dines at local restaurants, takes
field trips to free concerts, creates art and performs plays.
Co-coordinator of the group, Judy Bradley, has seen the benefits of getting to know
strangers. Her parents met on a blind date.
If you've tried bars and singles clubs and are beginning to feel like the only option left
is to become a hermit, you're wrong. One of the most popular ways to meet people other
than at work or school is through organized activities such as city leagues, special
interest clubs and volunteer work. Ms. Klinginberger meets some of her dates at work.
But if you just want to try your feet out for one evening, the United States Amateur
Ballroom Dancers Association (USABDA) frequently organizes dances that anyone can attend.
They even hold a mini-class about an hour before the main event for those who need to dust
off their dancing shoes.
"USABDA is for couples and singles, and young and old and everyone. It's a great
choice if you didn't want to go to a bar. A good clean way to meet people," said
Verna Jordan, original coordinator and adviser for this area's USABDA.
The YMCA, YWCA, Wilmington Recreation Division and other nonprofit organizations offer
co-ed classes that range from kayaking and mountain climbing in the Blue Ridge to oil
painting and yoga which is a good way to meet other singles who may share the same hobbies
that you do.
Volunteer groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Vintage Values on Market owned by the
Domestic Violence Shelter and Services also are great ways to meet people who share
Thursday, August 2, 2001
Californians who filed head
of household taxpayers may get audit letters from FTB
A story released today by Business Wire reports that
according to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), about 250,000 Californians will receive an
audit letter requesting information to verify their use of the Head of Household tax
filing status for 2000.
"The Head of Household filing status is a very favorable tax filing status. All
qualified taxpayers should claim it to take advantage of the tax savings it affords,"
said State Controller and Chair of the Franchise Tax Board Kathleen Connell.
Annually, the FTB reviews returns claiming the Head of Household filing status because
the qualifications for this filing status are commonly misunderstood. Many people who
consider themselves the "head of their household," but do not meet the
requirements, mistakenly use it. This filing status has lower tax rates and a higher
standard deduction than the single filing status. It is intended to assist unmarried
individuals who provide a home for a qualifying person, typically their child.
This audit program aims to ensure that the Head of Household filing status is used
correctly. Those determined not to qualify are assessed additional tax by using the single
or married filing separate filing statues. Taxpayers not responding to the letter are also
subject to additional penalties. Of the more than 14 million tax returns filed in
California each year, nearly two million claim the Head of Household filing status. Last
year, the FTB determined that nearly 27,000 taxpayers did not qualify for this filing
Taxpayers who e-file their tax return have the option to voluntarily complete a Head of
Household questionnaire and include it with their e-file return. Taxpayers who submit
completed questionnaires may not receive audit letters.
Questions about the Head of Household filing status should request the FTB's
Publication 1540, Tax Information for Head of Household, by calling the FTB at
800/338-0505 and entering code 934 or by visiting the FTB's Website at www.ftb.ca.gov.
Children before marriage, a
common thing in America
A story published today by the Philadelphia Daily News
reports that when basketball star Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia seventy-sixers
marries longtime fiancée Tawanna Turner tomorrow, the couple's two children will be
present, no doubt.
That's because celebrity couples having children before marrying have gotten to be as
common as, say, watching Iverson make a three-point shot.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie did it, as did Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Eddie
Murphy and his wife, Nicole, and numerous others.
"There was a time when this was a rare occurrence," said Michael Broder, a
Philadelphia-based psychologist and author of "The Art of Staying Together: A
Couple's Guide to Intimacy and Respect." "There used to be a definite set of
rules that very few people deviated from."
These days, in part because of evolving social values, the age-old practice of marrying
first and becoming parents later has become almost passe in some circles.
Last year, nearly 1.4 million unmarried women gave birth - the highest number ever
reported in the United States. Roughly a third of all births are to unmarried women.
"It's almost become the in thing to do," said Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Beverly
Hills psychiatrist who counsels some celebrity patients.
And that's cause for alarm among some family therapists, who worry about the message
unmarried couples send their children.
"It's self-indulgent," said Tina Tessina, a licensed family therapist and
author of "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again". "I see the fallout in my
office every day."
But others, such as Susan Newman, a New Jersey-based social psychologist and author of
11 books on parenting, believe there's minimal effect on children.
"I don't think it makes a bit of difference," Newman said. "What really
matters is that the child has caring, loving parents, attentive parents - especially
today, with fewer people getting married and more and more people raising their children
in a partnership."
Steven Carter, author of "Getting to Commitment: Overcoming the Eight Greatest
Obstacles to Lasting Connection" and 18 other relationship books, thinks Iverson
and Turner's decision to marry is based on the fact that "at some point, people
eventually look at each other and say, 'I love you. You love me. We need to honor each
Regardless of why Iverson has decided to legalize his union with Turner, whom he met
while he was in high school at Bethel, many applaud their move.
"It's not about how much you love someone," said Judith Sills, a
Philadelphia-based relationship expert. "It's not about how great the sex got.. .
.It's about reaching the point emotionally when you can make a decision that is for the
best. It's about being a grownup.
"There's nothing greater that a man can give their children than the idea that he
loves their mother and he's going to stand by her."
North Carolina woman sues
man for luring her husband away
A story published by the Charlotte Observer reports that
a woman from North Carolina has filed a civil lawsuit against a man she accuses
of wrecking her marriage by having an affair with her husband.
Billie Jean Bonner's lawsuit joins a growing list of high-profile "alienation of
affection" suits filed in North Carolina in recent years under case law allowing
jilted husbands and wives to sue those they accuse of luring away their spouses.
Bonner's attorney, Lane Williamson of Charlotte, said this is the first case he can
recall in which the alleged affair involved a same-sex relationship.
Bonner's lawsuit, filed Friday, says she was happily married for about 11 years until a
relationship developed between her husband, Lawrence Culler, and the defendant, Marshall
The lawsuit contends Morrow cultivated a relationship with Bonner's husband with the
intent of destroying the marriage.
It also says Morrow and Culler met periodically for "clandestine trysts," at
least one of which allegedly occurred at a house owned separately by Bonner. During these
meetings, the lawsuit contends, the two men violated an N.C. "crime against
nature" law forbidding same-sex intercourse.
The lawsuit says Bonner suffered unspecified serious and permanent injuries, including
mental anguish, humiliation, loss of income from her professional practice as a jewelry
broker and loss of Culler's companionship and affection. She is asking for a jury
trial and damages of more than $10,000, according to the lawsuit.
North Carolina is one of nine states that still allows alienation of affection
lawsuits. South Carolina, on the other hand, has repealed its alienation of affection
law in 1992.
The N.C. House of Representatives in April has passed a bill to abolish such lawsuits,
but the full Senate hasn't voted on it yet.
Book publisher refocuses its
attention to single people
A story published by the Wall Street Journal reports that in a sign of changing
priorities between the next generation and the last, romance book leader Harlequin
Enterprises Ltd. is fiddling with its formula.
Harlequin has decided to make a play for its younger readership marketing a new line of
novels geared for 18-34 year old women. Published under the name of Red Dress Ink, these
stories are in the style of ""Bridget Jones Diary"" where
the female protagonist kisses a lot of frogs and happiness does not necessarily include
Mr. Right and wedded bliss. Harlequin has traditionally churned out romance novels that
are, in essence, the grownup version of happily-ever-after fairy tales, at the heart of
which is marriage.