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U.S. News Archive
March 07 - March 13, 2002



This page contains news for the period March 07, 2002 through March 13, 2002.  

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Wednesday, March 13, 2002


Florida woman says she was denied infertility treatment for being single


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a neonatal nurse practitioner at the University of Florida sued the school in federal court Wednesday, claiming she was denied infertility treatment simply because she is single.

Melinda Millsaps, 43, said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Gainesville that her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection were violated when she was denied treatment almost four years ago.

She wants the practice stopped and at least $30,000 to cover her expenses for seeking treatment elsewhere, legal expenses and medical care for depression, she said. Millsaps was being represented by an attorney but decided to pursue the case by herself.

The lawsuit also names the Florida State Board of Education, Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic and three doctors at the university's fertility clinic.

Arline Phillips-Han, a spokeswoman for university's Health Science Center, said she couldn't comment on pending litigation but provided a statement on the university's infertility program.

Anyone, regardless of marital status, is eligible for preliminary screening and a physical examination, but a person can only get treatment for a medical condition. A woman can't seek fertilization or impregnation treatment just because she doesn't have a male partner, according to the policy statement.

Millsaps said she did have a medical problem - premature ovarian failure.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, who inquired about the case after Millsaps contacted her office, Dr. R. Stan Williams said the program has finite resources and "must focus on what services best fit with and advance the educational goals of the program."

But a 1993 memo written by Allen Neims, the Dean of the College of Medicine, noted that Williams morally objected to single women receiving fertility treatment.

"It is clearly his belief that the child has a better outcome when delivered by a woman with a husband," Neims said in the memo to Vice President for Health Affairs David Challoner.

Millsaps had previously filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights, claiming she was the victim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But an investigator found no evidence that she was denied treatment based on a disability.

The Florida Commission on Human Relations found no violations of civil rights after it was asked to investigate by Millsaps.

"It has turned my life into a nightmare," Millsaps said.



Single women say traveling solo is liberating


A story released today by the Daily University Science News reports that a new University of Florida study shows that more women see solo vacations as adventures in freedom and liberation, despite portrayals of those travelers as foolish risk-takers.

"Guide books, travel magazines and the travel sections of newspapers are filled with caution, sending the message that women are crazy to embark on such journeys because they make themselves vulnerable to harassment and other attacks," said Heather Gibson, a professor in UF's recreation, parks and tourism department.

Working with Fiona Jordan, a senior lecturer in the School of Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education in Cheltenham in the UK, Gibson interviewed 50 women between the ages of 20 and 63 from the United States and the United Kingdom during the past two years.

The women interviewed unanimously reported they found solo leisure travel to be empowering rather than frightening.

With the increasing number of women living alone as a result of divorce, widowhood or never marrying, solo leisure travel for women has become more commonplace.

Women in the UF study, who participated in response to an advertisement, traveled all over the globe, from weekend trips to New York and Washington, D.C., to extended stays in Honduras, Africa and Eastern Europe. Some piggybacked their vacation with other activities, such as teaching English as a second language in Mexico, added Gibson.

Although one woman recalled being grabbed by a Middle Eastern shopkeeper who at first refused to release her, the study's female travelers reported overwhelmingly positive experiences, Gibson said.

Knowing that some countries and cultures frown on women traveling alone, they used a variety of strategies to protect themselves, such as selecting accommodations in safer parts of town, avoiding rooms on the first floor and making it a practice always to be aware of their surroundings, she said.

"Some women spoke about it being an act of bravery to walk into a restaurant alone to dine because people would stare at them," she said. "And occasionally they talked about fleeting feelings of loneliness and wanting to have someone to share things with. But this was not something that would keep them home."

The study found some generational differences. Women in their 40s, 50s and 60s often struggled to juggle taking care of elderly parents with the responsibilities of caring for their own families and holding down jobs; those in their 20s and 30s were much freer to roam, she said.

Some of the women in their 30s had toured more than 40 countries, Gibson said.

"They described themselves as being fueled by an adventuresome spirit -- a wanderlust -- and said they had a hard time staying in one place," she said.




Have the internet comfort you broken heart


A story released today by icWales reports that since time immemorial, rejected lovers have had to cry, comfort-eat and write weepy ballads in gloomy solitude.

But if there's one thing the internet has taught us, it's that no matter how unique your problems seem to you, somewhere out there you'll find a website devoted to them, probably getting a million hits a day.

So if you're wading in a post-ditched vale of tears, log on to www.soyouvebeendumped.com, a tranquil space in the world wide web devoted to broken hearts.

It was set up by a doubly-dumped Californian named Thea Newcomb, who moved to Glasgow when she married a Scotsman, only to be left high and dry three years later when her husband filed for divorce.

"I'm certainly well qualified to host this website, but then I always said I'd make rejection pay - and it has," said Thea, 34.

Starting out with just £200 on July 4, 2000, Thea's site is now one of the Web's big hitters, with a million visitors a month from people in 30 countries.

"I realized there were millions of people out there in a similar situation to me, so I thought of a universal website where people can tell their true stories," Thea said.

But if you're struggling to get over a break-up with someone you genuinely loved - and maybe still do - you might be forgiven for wondering just how a mere website can ever hope to patch up your broken heart.

Perhaps inevitably for a site run by a Californian, the key is to talk it all through. To do that, you have to register with the site - user names like Lovesick, Totally Gutted and, optimistically, Funseeker are the order of day - to gain access to The Ex-Change chat forums.

Once in, you can read and respond to true tales of dumping, revenge fantasies, rebounding, relapsing and - with a bit of luck - moving on.

All contributors are anonymous and some of their stories make fairly grim reading.

"Ultimately, the site is there to help people get over one of the most traumatic things that can happen to anyone," said Thea. "I really hope the site is an inspiration."


Can men and women really be just friends?


A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that society has long been fascinated with one simple question: Can men and women be ‘just friends’?

Almost everyone claims to have an answer or at least an opinion. As with most matters of the heart, there are no black-and-white answers. After a vehement "Yes, of course, men and women can be just friends," or a definite "No way!" a "but...," an "only if...," or an "as long as..." often follows.

Common qualifiers range from "It can work, but they have to set boundaries and stick to them" to "It's possible, but difficult, especially if they've already been a couple."

The 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally" thrust this topic into the pop-culture spotlight.

While on a post-graduation drive from Chicago to New York, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) engage in a lively debate about this issue. Each character fits the gender stereotype one might expect: Sally says yes, it's indeed possible to be just friends, while Harry insists "the sex part always gets in the way."

Since then, the hit TV show "Friends" has also kept the issue alive and well.

Neither Harry and Sally nor Rachel, Joey, and the rest of the gang draw conclusions - but they certainly provoke a lot of off-screen discussion. Provoking discussion is just what Leslie Parrott and her husband, Les, strive for in "Relationships 101," the wildly popular course they teach at Seattle Pacific University.

"We've thought long and hard about this issue," she says. "We've listened to many people's stories and read all the research. And we have concluded that yes, it is possible for these friendships to work." But, she adds, "It requires a maturity and a willingness to stretch and grow in ways you don't have to with same-sex friendships."

If people are willing to make the effort, she adds, the benefits can be tremendous. "Men typically talk about how they share an intimacy with women friends that they don't get elsewhere, and women talk about a sense of playfulness and rough, joking camaraderie they don't share with same-sex friends."

Professor Parrott also recommends friendship after a split only if both individuals are committed to other people. "Otherwise, the chance of one person auditioning for the role of girlfriend or boyfriend is high," she says. "Once people have moved on, achieved a certain level of independence from one another, and are feeling healthy and whole, that's when it can work - and greatly enhance your life."




Israeli Jewish women can go to jail if they refuse bill of divorce

A story published today by the Jerusalem Post reports that the Israel’s Justice Ministry announced yesterday that according to a ruling by Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, a woman who refuses to accept a bill of divorce from her husband, and continues to do so after attempts to mollify her fail, can be sent to jail.

Lau, who is also the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, recently ruled that coercive steps can be taken against women who refuse to accept a bill of divorce, just as they can be taken against husbands who refuse to give one.

In a letter to rabbis throughout the country, Lau said: "[Torah] likens the woman to a man, and just as restrictions, including incarceration, can be taken against one who refuses to give [his wife] a get (bill of divorce), restrictions, including incarceration, can be taken against a women who has been ordered by the beit din to accept a get and refuses to do so."

Lau ruled on a case in which the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court determined that a couple should get divorced, and gave permission to the man to marry another woman after his wife refused to accept a get from him. The Tel Aviv district office of the Justice Ministry had given legal advice to a 53-year-old woman with five children who refused to accept a get from her husband, even though they had been living apart for many years.

Last night, Lau reacted to reports that his ruling was a precedent setting decision. He said permission to jail a woman who refuses to accept a get is not something new. Such a law has been in effect for several years, but has not been put into practice, a statement released by his office said.



Tuesday, March 12, 2002


Oklahoma House OK’s covenant marriage bill


A story published today by the Oklahoman reports that Oklahoma could join three other states with covenant marriage laws if a bill passed by the state House becomes law.

House Bill 2641, authored by Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, and Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward, would allow couples to consider entering into covenant marriage arrangements requiring premarital counseling and more counseling if a marriage was in danger of falling apart.

Vaughn's bill passed by a 91-6 vote and is headed to the Senate.

"Certainly, the passage of laws will not make a family strong," he said. "But they can emphasize society's support for the integrity of the family unit and its desire that family units remain intact.

"This law tries to uphold and support the marital relationship."

To receive a covenant marriage license, a couple would be required to attend premarital classes. Before they could consider a divorce, they would have to agree to marriage counseling.

Vaughn said a study by the Institute for American Values shows children who live with their married birth parents enjoy better physical health. Divorce reduces the likelihood children will graduate from college.

Coming from a divorced home also doubles the odds children will divorce their partners when they become married adults, he said.

Vaughn's bill comes as recent data shows Oklahoma's number of failed marriages -- about 20,000 a year -- has remained fairly steady for the past several years.

For every 100 marriage licenses issued last year, the state granted 76 divorce petitions, records show.

Vaughn called Monday's House support for his bill progress. So far, lawmakers have rejected calls to outlaw no-fault divorce.

Since 1997, three states -- Arizona, Louisiana and Arkansas -- have passed covenant marriage laws.




New book looks at children from divorced homes


A story published today by the Miami Herald reports that divorce, particularly when children are involved, is almost always traumatic at first, but new research shows that families, particularly children, adapt and often thrive after the conflict ends and they rebuild their lives.

A nationally known researcher, E.Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia, found at least three-fourths of the 450 young adults she had followed after their parents got divorced were doing well.

"There's a certain resilience, an adaptability," she said. "The vast majority eventually are able to recover and build a fulfilling life."

Her latest book, "For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered", offers reassurance to the millions of American spouses who don't make it till death before parting. It also confirms many impressions of the resiliency of divorced families - as long as they are willing to forge new lives.

The effects of divorce have been a source of societal concern since the 1970s when the divorce rate soared, with nearly half of marriages ending in divorce. Since then, the rate has dropped to 40 percent but many still worry about the consequences of so many broken families.

In 1998, Florida adopted mandatory four-hour classes for divorcing parents, which Miami-Dade courts had started five years earlier.

"We go into (the classes) with the attitude that while divorce is inherently difficult and traumatic, we can create scenarios where children can succeed," says Marc Burns, Miami-Dade's director of both the parents' program and a separate class started in 1994 for children 6 and up.

"We tell parents they don't have to like each other - they just have to get along with each other when it comes to dealing with kids," adds Paul Maione, director of a Positive Parenting Through Divorce class that Broward County parents can take for their court-ordered class.

In fact, many kids see their dads more after the breakup, says Anne Rambo, a child and family therapist who is an associate professor at Nova Southeastern University. "The fathers spend time with their kids to compensate for the loss," she says.

Judith Wallerstein, a California psychologist who wrote "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study" with Sandra Blakeslee and Julia Lewis, says, however, that the offspring of broken marriages whom she studied were left anxious and pessimistic, especially crippled when it came to love.

"They say, 'It's better not to feel, I learned that a long time ago,'" Wallerstein said.

Miami Beach marriage therapist M.Gary Neuman doesn't want parents to get the wrong message from Hetherington's findings that "divorce is no big deal. As long as we don't kill each other the kids will be fine."

In reality, kids keep their fears secret, says Neuman, who with Patricia Romanowski wrote "Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way".


Monday, March 11, 2002



Britain’s Foreign Office addresses forced marriages

A story released today by BBC News reports that a new video has been launched by Britain’s Foreign Office which is aimed at raising awareness among pupils of forced marriages.

The film, Tying The Knot, has been made amid fears of some young people being subjected to physical violence to force them into marriage.

The video is designed as a multi-cultural teaching aid for students aged between 12 and 18.

It was commissioned by the Foreign Office's (FO) community liaison unit in response to a report into forced marriages 18 months ago.

Where consent comes because of emotional blackmail, massive physical pressure, beatings, abductions - that is a forced marriage

In a year-and-a-half, the FO dealt with 240 cases of forced marriage, and was able to repatriate more than 60 young people who were taken abroad to be married against their will.

Gita Saghal, who made the film, said it did not condemn arranged marriages but those which were a result of "pressure, emotional blackmail, the massive physical pressure of beatings and abduction".

"We're trying to talk about marriage as a choice and the right to make that choice - whether to marry at all, to marry within an arrange marriage but with your consent, or to choose your own spouse," said Saghal.

She said abductions for forced marriages had for too long been treated by authorities as a "family problem" and left to the community to deal with.

Now there was somewhere to turn for support, she added.

Foreign Office minister Baroness Amos said the video was one of several initiatives design to "tackle the issue" in the UK.

"This film is a useful way to help young people explore some of the complex issues about marriage, and the way we enter into it," she said.


Saturday, March 9, 2002


Big sister watches over younger brother


A story published today by the Chicago Sun Times reports that for 21 year old Nicole Keating, being away from home with parents battling each other in divorce court made her life more complicated.

As she was trying to make a new life for herself in Chicago's suburbs four years ago, Keating was granted full custody of her younger brother, Ben, then 15.

Suddenly, the young woman who was struggling to balance a full-time job, college courses had the additional responsibility of caring for a teen brother who'd just enrolled in a new high school.

On Friday, Keating, now 25, got some public recognition for her perseverance when Harper College awarded her a $1,000 scholarship in the school's "Write Your Future" contest. Her winning essay was about--what else--"the meaning of determination."

Keating came to the Chicago area in February 1998 to help her sister start a tea room business, after living in San Diego, where she had moved after high school. Two other brothers later joined them.

With their parents going through the divorce back home in New Jersey, Keating knew it wouldn't be healthy for their youngest sibling, Ben, to be away from the security of his brothers and sisters.

Ben moved to Chicago in June 1998. Shortly after, Keating volunteered to become Ben's legal guardian. They turned a two-bedroom apartment in Schaumburg into a home and Nicole enrolled Ben at Fremd High School in Palatine.

Keating remembers watching her brother from the window as he walked to the bus, a new student with no friends.

"He was very self-conscious. He was just in that awkward stage of his life," she said. "It just broke my heart, watching him walk by himself to the bus stop because he didn't have any friends." But Ben soon flourished, making friends, joining the wrestling team and immersing himself in writing poetry and songs. He credits his sister with providing stability in the first rough months.

"Basically, she was just there. That's the biggest help somebody can be at that point in your life," he said.

Keating eventually took on a full load of courses at Harper as she held down a full-time job at Victoria's Secret. She'd rush home at the end of each day to have dinner with Ben.

Only recently did she cut back to 25 hours a week at the store, and that's because she's helping with a May 3 fashion show at Harper. She's president of the school's fashion club. She's also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa international honors society for associate degree students.

Keating will be receiving her degree in fashion merchandising this spring, the same time her brother graduates from high school.

She said she hopes to continue her education with public relations and French, and is narrowing her school choices.

Ben also faces a decision about which college to attend--a choice that will depend somewhat on geography.

"I'm definitely going to live near her," he said.



Study says girls growing up faster with stepfathers


A story released today by The Age.com reports that a large number of children growing up with stepfathers may be contributing to the worldwide trend towards girls reaching early puberty.

According to research from a landmark American study, life in divorced or remarried families promotes early maturity and increases the likelihood of early pregnancy.

Girls living in step-families are almost twice as likely to experience early puberty as those from non-divorced homes. While only 18 percent of girls from traditional homes start menstruating by 11 or younger, this applies to 25 percent of girls in divorced homes and 35 per cent in step-families.

The study, involving nearly three decades of research covering 1400 families, has just been published in For Better or For Worse, a book on the impact of divorce written by the principal researcher, psychologist Mavis Hetherington, and co-author John Kelly.

The authors propose two explanations, based on the theories of evolutionary psychologists, to account for accelerated puberty in divorced and blended families.

First, early puberty may be a response to life in a hostile environment, namely the high rate of conflict and stress associated with divorce and remarriage.

The other theory focuses on the fact that in many animal species the presence of a strange male induces sexual readiness in young females. Hence early menstruation may be triggered by the presence of a "strange male".

Dr. Bruce Ellis, from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, has been involved in a series of studies exploring early puberty and family structure in the United States and New Zealand. His American work examined the family circumstances of girls in kindergarten and tracked them through to puberty.

His results reveal that the presence of the stepfather can lead to early puberty in girls. "And the earlier and longer the exposure, the stronger the effect," Dr Ellis says.

The critical time for that exposure seems to be the first five to seven years, when the pathways to puberty are set. Dr Ellis speculates that an environmentally triggered process shunts the girl towards a particular reproductive strategy. This process may be influenced by male pheromones, with the pheromones of unrelated males apparently accelerating puberty, while the scent of the biological father may delay maturation.

Dr Ellis suggests that with children tending to receive higher quality parental investment in traditional families, it makes sense to prolong that investment by maturing more slowly. "A child growing up with a stepfather could be in a relatively low quality or even potentially dangerous environment. Maturing early facilitates them to get out of that environment and look elsewhere for social support," he says. Children in step-families are between 40 and 100 times more likely to die through abuse or neglect than those living with two biological parents.

Dr Ellis's research also suggests puberty is delayed by the presence of the biological father, particularly fathers who interact more with their daughters when they are young.

It's the link between early maturation and risky sexual behavior that makes this issue so important. Research has consistently shown girls from divorced families become sexually active at a younger age, have a greater number of sexual partners and are at greater risk of early pregnancy.

Dr Ellis says it is too early to use these findings as the basis for social policy. But Owen Pershouse, a Brisbane clinical psychologist and founder of MENDS, an organization supporting separated men, warns that the findings can only add to the angst felt by many separated males regarding daughters who live with their mothers, particularly in households including a new boyfriend or stepfather.


Friday, March 8, 2002


Oklahoma lawmakers OK’s divorce bill to freeze assets


A story published today by the Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would initially freeze the assets of married couples seeking a divorce.

House Bill 2397, authored by Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, and Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, would restore something people once routinely requested but could not be uniformly enforced.

Vaughn said people once again could seek ex parte temporary orders whenever a divorce petition was filed that would provide litigants couldn't sell, transfer or destroy property the married couple had acquired together.

If approved in the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would put an automatic, temporary injunction against both parties involved in divorce proceedings that would prohibit:

Any transfer, encumbrance, concealment or disposal of any marital property without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court.

Money could be spent from joint accounts for the usual course of business -- to hire an attorney or "other necessities of life" -- the proposed law says. One party would be required to notify the other in writing of any extraordinary expenditures.

Intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying tangible property of the parties, including documents.

Withdrawing money from any retirement, profit-sharing, pension, death or other employee benefit plan or employee savings plan.

Withdrawing or borrowing cash value from life insurance policies on each other or their children.

Ending or changing beneficiary designations on either person's insurance plans, or those of their children.

Canceling or altering any casualty, automobile or health insurance policies involving the litigants.

Opening or diverting each other's mail.

Signing or endorsing each other's checks.

Disturbing the peace involving each other and the children.

Hiding the children from each other.

Taking the children out of Oklahoma for more than two weeks at a time without the written permission of the other party.

The rules, if they become law, would be printed as an attachment to any divorce or settlement petition and would be served to the other party.

The law includes authority for police officers and judges to enforce the law, Vaughn said.



Massachusetts experiencing increase in single parent families


A story released today by the States News Service reports that according to a new report based on the latest census data, child poverty in Massachusetts actually increased during the decade.

In 2000, at the peak of the nation's economic expansion, 207,000 children in Massachusetts, or 14 percent of the youth population, were living in poverty. Ten years earlier, with the economy heading towards recession, the state had about 35,000 fewer impoverished children and a child poverty rate of 13 percent.

Nonetheless, Massachusetts' child poverty rate remains lower than the national average, which inched downward from 18 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2000 even as the number of children living in poverty nationwide reached 12.4 million, up from 11.2 million a decade earlier.

The report -- released Thursday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau -- also found that Massachusetts was one of only nine states in which a higher percentage of children were living in "high-risk" families at the end of the decade than at the beginning.

The number of Massachusetts children living in high-risk families -- defined as those that have incomes below the poverty line, only one parent, or parents who are either unemployed or high school dropouts -- climbed from 146,000 to 167,000, or 12 percent of the state's youth population.

The report also revealed that the percentage of Massachusetts children living in single-parent families increased from 23 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2000, mirroring the national trend. The share of children in low-income working families rose to 13 percent, up from 10 percent in 1990.



Single parents in New Hampshire on the rise


A story released today by Foster’s Online reports that more and more children in New Hampshire are living with single parents, and that is making some child advocates nervous about the prospect of the youngsters’ future.

In the trend analysis report released Thursday by The Annie E. Casey Foundation compared 10 different types of data — what the foundation calls 10 key risk indicators of child well-being — from the 1990 U.S. Census with those from the 2000 U.S. Census.

New Hampshire showed better than national average improvements in four of these categories, including 13 percent decrease in the past decade in the percentage of children living in poverty compared to 6 percent nationwide.

The percentage of children living in single-parent families rose dramatically in the Granite State between 1990 and 2000, however — by 44 percent compared to a national 25 percent.

Ellen Shemitz, president of Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire said the majority of single-parent families in New Hampshire are headed by women. The birth rate to unmarried women in the state rose to 24 percent from 17 percent in the past decade, although the teen pregnancy rate has shrunk, Shemitz added.

The trend also reflects an increased divorce rate, she said.

The Kids Count report released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation in October, 2001, showed that the percentage of children who may be involved in a divorce was 32 percent in Strafford County and 25 percent in Rockingham County.

A large percentage of children living with single mothers indicates a higher possibility for the child poverty rate to go up, Shemitz said. Figures of other risk indicators may also consequently worsen, she said.

Access to affordable, quality child care helps single parents to work and prepare their children for schooling, she said. Affordable housing is also always an issue for single-mother families, she added.



Breaking poverty through marriage?


A commentary written today by Ellen Goodman for the Lawrence Journal World focuses on the proposed Bush Welfare plan which encourages single parents to walk on the marriage aisle. To view the complete commentary please click to the link below.


Thursday, March 7, 2002

Arizona lawmakers explore bills to save marriages

A story released today by the Concord Monitor reports that Arizona lawmakers are exploring ways to lower the state’s divorce rate. It's too easy to say "I do," claims a group of legislators sponsoring a marriage education and enhancement bill. The second measure being introduced explores the possibility of marriage license discounts for couples who complete premarital counseling.

"Divorce is having a devastating effect on families," said Rep. Gary Hopper, House Bill 1299's primary sponsor. "Most states are starting to realize that they can't afford to keep picking up the pieces of broken homes."

Modeled after legislation proposed in several other states, Hopper's original bill proposed raising the state's marriage license fee from $45 to $200 and offering a $155 discount for couples who complete a four-hour premarital preparation course. After hearing testimony on the bill last month, the House Committee on Children and Family Law revamped it to instead form a formal committee to study the proposal. The amended bill was passed by the House yesterday.

Hopper says there is widespread support for the concept of premarital counseling incentives, as well as other efforts to better prepare people for the sometimes rocky road of marriage. The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Burt Cohen of New Castle, who was planning to introduce a similar bill in the Senate when he heard about Hopper's bill.

"I think this is really a non-partisan issue," Cohen said. "There seems to be universal agreement that marriage is not something people should jump into willy-nilly."

"We can't afford to ignore the problem anymore," Cohen said.


Iowa Senate approves premarital counsel bill

A story published today by the Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Senate Wednesday night voted on a proposal to encourage counseling for couples who plan to wed. This left Democrats and Republicans debating whether the bill had been approved.

The final vote on Senate File 2106 was 25-24. Democrats said they believed 26 votes were required to pass a bill in the 50-member Senate.

Senate President Mary Kramer, a West Des Moines Republican, ended the suspense. She ruled that 25 votes was a constitutional majority for the 49 senators "currently serving." One GOP senator, Merlin Bartz of Grafton, resigned last month to take a federal job. A special election to fill the seat is scheduled for Tuesday.

Under the marriage-counseling bill, couples who get counseling would pay $20 for a marriage license instead of the current $35. They would have a three-day wait for a license, which is the current practice. Those who don't receive premarital counseling would pay $50 for a marriage license and would have to wait 30 days.

Critics of the proposal said it was government meddling in people's lives.

"It's an option, but it's an option with a price," said Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat. "To charge somebody 50 bucks because they don't believe what you believe is a joke."

McCoy said a better approach would be to put teen-agers through a required high school course on marriage and the family, "rather than running them through a weekend workshop for marriage."

The Senate, however, struck another part of the bill that would have required a judge to determine whether a divorce involving a family with children was in the children's best interest.

Proponents didn't have the votes to pass a more sweeping covenant marriage law, which would have made divorce more difficult for couples who chose the optional marriage contract.




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