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Tuesday, May 15, 2001

U.S. census reports increase in unmarried couples

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that America's notion of getting married and settling down has slowly changed in terms of the time frame or perception. They're expanding their ideas of what it means to "settle down."

Between 1990 and 2000, the latest census finds that there is a 71 percent increase in the number of unmarried partners living together. It dwarfed the growth in married-couple households which only went up 7 percent from the past decade.

Data released by the Census Bureau Tuesday also showed   a large increase in other alternative arrangements: a 25 percent increase in the number of women living with their own child but without a husband; and a 21 percent growth   increase in the number of people living alone.

Still, the figures should place new pressure on lawmakers to deal with the issues of changing family structures, said Thomas Coleman, executive director of the American Association of Single People. Those issues include expanding employee benefits for domestic partners and recognizing same-sex partnerships.

"We're just saying let's even the playing field a bit," Coleman said. "If we are doling out benefits fairly, let's dole them out to single and unmarried people, and married people."

Later this year the Census Bureau will reveal more details, such as how many unmarried couples were in same-sex relationships, or how many people living alone were elderly widows.

Overall, there were 54.5 million married-couple families in 2000, or about 52 percent of the country's 105.5 million households, the census reported. In 1990, there were 50.7 million married-couple homes, 55 percent of all households then.

By comparison, unmarried-partner homes number 5.5 million now, or about 5 percent of all homes, up from the 3 percent reported a decade ago.

"I don't need the trappings of weddings and bridal showers to make me feel worthy or guarantee a commitment," said Teri Hu of Fremont, Calif., who has raised

Americans living single outnumbers married couples with children
A story published today by the New Haven Register reports that the household relationships, age and gender statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau today showed significant changes in the makeup of American families over the last 10 years, including a continuation of the 50-year decline in married couples.

The report noted that only 51.7 percent of households contained both a husband and wife in 2000, down from 55 percent a decade ago and 78 percent in the 1950s. Also, people living alone occupy 25.8 percent of American households, surpassing married couples with children by more than 2 percent.

"It won’t be long before the majority of the nation’s households are unmarried," said Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the American Association of Single People. "Unmarried Americans are here to stay."

The changes in American households, though, were the most striking aspects of the "Profile of General Demographic Characteristics for the United States: 2000." Some experts say the decreases in married households aren’t just a result of more divorces. Some couples are waiting to get married until later in life, even after they have children. Others, including homosexuals, are choosing to forgo the ritual altogether.

Families maintained by women with no husband present increased three times as quickly as married couple families in the last decade, making up 7.2 percent of all households.

Marc St. Camille, co-author of "It’s Okay to be Single," said he hopes people are no longer rushing into marriage just because they’re lonely. As a massage therapist in New York City, St. Camille listened for years to clients stuck in deplorable relationships because they couldn’t bear to live alone.

"People shouldn’t be married unless it’s a really great thing for them and all the elements are in place," he said. "We never say it’s better to be single, but you don’t have to be miserable if you live alone."

The statistics were disheartening for the Family Research Council, a lobbying group that promotes traditional family values and opposes single people living together before marriage. Bridget Maher, the council’s marriage and family policy analyst, suspects that lower marriage rates lead to many of the country’s problems including poverty, juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy.

But Nancy Wise, who wrote "Are You Gonna Be In There All Night? 50 Great Reasons to Love Living Alone" under the pen name Bobby Solo, says people need to look no further than "Dear Abby" to see that marriage doesn’t work for everyone.

"These are people who felt they had to find a mate regardless of what kind of mate it was," she said. "A lot of people make bad decisions because they feel they shouldn’t live alone."

Unwed employees feel shortchanged by workplace 'family oriented' policies 

A story published today by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that in recent years, singles have become more vocal about what they perceive as unfair treatment by employers.

Single rights advocates argue that workers make up roughly 40 percent of the nation's full-time workforce and should be able to enjoy the same health-care benefits, tax breaks and other perks that married people enjoy.

Last year, author Elinor Burkett took up the fight for singles equity in her book, "The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless." No Kidding!, a nonprofit social club for childless singles and couples, also is growing in popularity across the country. The group does not promote a particular agenda, but its founding non-father, Jerry Steinberg, has strong opinions about how employers "seem to be bending over backward trying to please child-burdened workers."

According to employment experts, companies are now creating workplaces that caters to everyone.

A survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found that one in five companies allows employees to bring children to work in emergencies, and 17 percent offer child care referral services. Three percent of firms surveyed provide on-site child care.

At the same time, employers are not simply catering to families, but offering a wide array of options for workers who are single, single parents or living with a domestic partner.

"While employers are trying to be more sensitive to those with families, ultimately what they're trying to get at is work-life balance," said Kristin Bowl, spokeswoman for the Society of Human Resource Management, an Alexandria, Va., association of human resource professionals. "That is a benefit that's helpful for those with families and those without."

"They're trying to be inclusive, flexible and trying to provide choices," she said. "It's not a perfect world, but the awareness is growing."

Thomas Coleman, an attorney and executive director of the American Association for Single People, said his goal is to spread the word to even more employers. The association, a nonprofit organization that promotes equal rights for unmarried adults, couples, parents and families, has embarked on a singles-friendly campaign to explain some of the ways in which singles are discriminated against.

Single workers typically pay higher taxes and receive fewer job benefits than their married counterparts, according to Coleman. Employers, he said, should implement "cafeteria-style" benefits, which allow workers to choose benefits that meet their individual needs - regardless of their living arrangements.

Fortunately for singles, Coleman said more companies are beginning to adopt a different approach.

"Some of them (companies) went overboard a bit in stressing so heavily family and children to the point where there's been some type of a backlash," said Coleman, who met with Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Mayid "Mickey" Ayyoub, who lives with a female domestic partner in Sausalito, said that government, private and public companies should be doing more to help singles get their fair share.

Ayyoub, who is a member of the American Association for Single People, made headlines locally about four years ago when he filed a complaint against the city of Oakland for denying health benefits to his partner, Sandra Washburn.

At the time, the city had a policy offering medical benefits to city employees' same-sex partners. The city eventually changed its policy in 1998 to include heterosexual domestic partners.

"Oakland had been enlightened about domestic-partner status," said Ayyoub, 37. "It is a lifestyle that has to be respected. Just because marriage is there, it shouldn't impact a domestic partner lifestyle. We are real people with real lifestyles, and we want real respect."

Equity in the workplace is important, said Donna Lenhoff, general counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington, D.C. However, many singles are missing the point about what family means, she said. "Single people are also members of families. They may not have spouses or children, but single people have parents and grandparents who often need care. They're often quite involved in family responsibilities."

Although Melanie Dowe, 38, decided not to have children of her own, she agrees that employers should support family-friendly policies. Dowe, senior vice president of a global marketing research company in San Francisco, and her husband, Robert Van Poederooyen, started a San Francisco/East Bay chapter of No Kidding! a year ago to meet other childless couples.

"In my personal experience, I've not experienced that kind of inequity," Dowe said. "Several of us believe those policies should be in place.

"The role of parents is a difficult one, and we admire people that want to be parents. Workplaces have to recognize family issues in order to keep good employees."

Monday, May 14, 2001

Study shows a decrease in marriages and divorces in New Zealand

A story released today by the Xinhua News Agency reports that New Zealand saw fewer marriages and marriage dissolutions in 2000 compared to the prior year.

Statistics New Zealand said in a media release here Monday that marriages registered in 2000 totaled 20,655, a decrease of 430 or 2 percent on the previous year in New Zealand, which has a population of 3.8 million.

The 2000 figure is down 24 percent on the peak of 27,199 marriages in 1971. The rate of marriage fell from 16.2 per 1,000 in 1999 to 15.6 per 1,000 in 2000. The latest marriage rate is about a third of the peak level of 45.5 per 1,000 recorded in 1971.

The growth of de facto unions, the trend towards delayed marriage and a growing percentage of New Zealanders remaining single have all contributed to the large drop in the marriage rate.

The trend toward later marriage is also continuing. People marrying for the first time in 2000 were, on average, about six years older than their counterparts in 1971.

While women still tend to marry men older than themselves, the gap between their average age at first marriage has narrowed, from three years in the mid-1960s to just over two years in 2000.

Last year, 9,695 marriage dissolution orders were granted in Family Courts, compared with 9,936 in 1999. The divorce rate fell from 12.6 in 1999 to 12.3 in 2000.

The median age for divorce actions in 2000 was 41.6 years for men and 39 years for women. The report noted that the divorce filers were on the average, three years older than those who divorced a decade earlier.

Saturday, May 12, 2001

Tennessee judges clash over divorce rulings

A story published today by the Tenessean reports that Tennessee Circuit Judge Russ Heldman of Franklin is firing back at Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge William Koch in their running disagreement over how hard it should be to get a divorce.

The Court of Appeals has reversed several rulings in which Heldman took an old-fashioned view of ''the sanctity of marriage'' and ruled against husbands who, he felt, had mistreated their wives.

In one sharply worded opinion, Koch said that Heldman had let his ''personal notions of moral rectitude'' override the best interests of a Lewis County couple's children when he denied visitation rights to the father as punishment for leaving his wife for another woman.

Heldman balked last week at declaring a Williamson County couple divorced, as the Court of Appeals had ordered him to do, and the Court of Appeals responded Monday with an order staying further proceedings on the case in Heldman's court.

That prompted a 14-page order from Heldman, reiterating his reasons for leaving a paralyzed woman's marriage intact -despite her husband's demand for a divorce - and accusing Koch of being so ''biased and prejudiced'' that he should not hear  any more appeals from Heldman's court.

The case at issue is Clark Matthew Earls' attempt to divorce his wife, Shirley Ann Earls, who was left paralyzed by an aneurysm in1997. Shirley Earls has said she wants to stay married and on her husband's health insurance plan, even though she acknowledges they can no longer live together.

Heldman ruled in 1999 that Clark Earls was not entitled to a divorce on grounds of inappropriate marital conduct because there was no proof that Shirley Earls had done anything wrong. But the Court of Appeals reversed Heldman last June in a 2-1 decision written by Koch. The Tennessee Supreme Court decided in March not to get involved in the case, and it was sent back to Heldman with instructions to declare the couple divorced.

Koch wrote last June that Heldman mistakenly viewed himself as ''the protector of the institution of marriage'' when he refused to grant Clark Earls' request for a divorce. Koch said that state law no longer favors ''condemning two persons to loveless marital unions'' once a marriage is ''irretrievably broken.''

''While Ms. Earls had no control over the fact that she was injured, she did have control over how she treated Mr. Earls,'' Koch wrote.

All three members of the Court of Appeals panel said that Heldman had exceeded his authority when he ordered Clark Earls not to ''come around'' his baby sitter, ''period,'' as long as he was married. (Clark Earls said he had developed a nonsexual relationship with the woman, whom he had asked to care for the couple's then 7-year-old son.)

But Court of Appeals Judge William Cain issued a dissenting opinion in which he said that Koch and Judge Patricia Cottrell, the third member of the panel, had to stretch to find that Shirley Earls was at fault in any way.

Heldman said in the order he issued Wednesday that he was still considering whether to declare the couple divorced. The Court of Appeals has not yet acted on Clark Earls' lawyer's request that it simply go ahead and grant the divorce on its own.

''My client does not have a lot of money,'' Clark Earls' lawyer, Robyn Ryan, said yesterday. ''I do not want to waste his money or time. I am just trying to get him divorced.''

Both Heldman and Koch declined to comment, citing the judicial canons of ethics, when they were contacted by a reporter yesterday afternoon.

Higher divorce rate for women with serious illness

A story released today by Reuters reports that men are more likely to leave their spouses with cancerous brain tumors, a U.S. researcher said on Saturday.

Dr. Michael Glantz said a study of 214 patients with brain tumors showed that women were eight times more likely than men to experience a marital separation or divorce and that men usually initiated the split.

Glantz, a neuro-oncologist at the University of Massachusetts, said it was ``very alarming'' to find that men were leaving their wives at a time when they needed support to cope with a deadly illness.

Patients with the type of brain tumor studied are likely to live only about a year after diagnosis.

Glantz said he had not yet evaluated the reasons behind the marital break-ups, but he gave most men the benefit of the doubt that ``it's not because they are nasty people.''

``Women seem to be more willing or more adept at nurturing their husbands through an illness, while men are not as skilled at doing the same for their
wives,'' he said.

Marriages were more likely to end when patients' tumors caused frontal lobe disease, a condition that causes people to lose motivation and attentiveness. ``It's really hard to put up with,'' Glantz told reporters attending a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

A marital split ``really changes your ability to treat a patient,'' Glantz added. Patients living on their own may not have transportation to an appointment or might fear undergoing treatment that would make them too tired to run their households alone.

Glantz also studied divorce rates among patients with other illnesses.

In 107 patients with multiple sclerosis, women were nearly seven times more likely than men to become divorced or separated. And among 193 patients with other cancers, women were 12 times more likely to have that outcome.

Additional studies are underway to see whether counseling or something else might help marriages endure in the face of serious illnesses. ``We don't think this has to be set in stone. We are going to see if we can intervene early to prevent
 that,'' Glantz said.

Friday, May 11, 2001

Manhattan school's decision to ban Mother's and Father's day sparks mixed reactions

A story released today by ABC News reports that a lot has changed in the structure of the American family since President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of  May Mother's Day on 1914. So when a Manhattan school "banned" Mother's - and Father's - Day earlier this week, it kicked up a furor, with  an article published in the New York Post.

Parents of children at the Rodeph Sholom Day School, the daily reported, were in an uproar over the new policy, which was aimed at protecting the feelings of children raised by same-sex couples.

The "ban" was a case of political correctness running amok, the paper suggested, and opponents of the move, such as Stanley Kurtz, a columnist at the National Review, called it an attack on the very  institution of motherhood.

"Give me a break," said Meema Spadola, director of the public television documentary, Our House: A Very Real Document About Kids of Gay and Lesbian Parents, and daughter of a lesbian mother. "I  think their heart is in the right place, but instead of getting rid of Mother's Day, it would have been a terrific opportunity to use it instead to describe different family structures."

Certainly the American family is not what it used to be. Approximately 30 years ago, a traditional household meant a dad, mom and the children. Today, over half of all American children do not live in so-called traditional two-parent nuclear families.

According to Congressional Research Service reports, nearly 500,000 American children live in foster care at any one time and approximately a million children in the United States live with adoptive parents.

Estimates of children of gay, lesbian and bisexual parents in the United States vary from 6 to 10 million according to COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere).

Some experts believe that for these children, doing away with Mother's and Father's Day celebrations at school may be a step in the right direction.

"I'm surprised that there's such a backlash because it's not about political correctness, it's about  sensitivity," said Laura Benkov, child psychologist and author of Reinventing the Family (Crown, 1994).

Benkov believes that besides children of same sex parents, the move also benefits children who have lost a parent.

But Jerald Newberry, executive director of the National Education Association Health Information Network, disagreed. "Assignments that allow children to express their thoughts and emotions can be healing," he said. "I don't think educators traumatize children by giving them an opportunity to write letters to people who care about them."

The problem for educators, said Newberry, is the baggage of value systems and prejudices children bring from home.

The growing numbers of single parents - mostly mothers - many of whom work two jobs, also means parents and guardians have less time to spend with their kids, Newberry says, and impart early but crucial social and communication skills.

Given that it's tougher world in American homes, which makes it a tougher world in American schools, Newberry believes any move towards sensitizing the school environment is a positive one.

"If you see the basis of school violence, it is tied to name calling and bullying, which comes out of ignorance," he said. "I think that this school is trying very hard to be sensitive to the changing population in schools."

Thursday, May 10, 2001

Prime minister's marital status intrigues japanese people

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Japan's new prime minister is different from his predecessors. Aside from enjoying rock music, his divorce status has peaked the media's interest who are now hotly pursuing the story behind the split in his marriage.

The 59-year-old Junichiro Koizumi -- the first bachelor ever elected to Japan's top job -- has said little publicly about the separation.

In 1978, he married a student at an elite private university in Tokyo who was 15 years his junior. They had three sons and divorced in 1982.

According to the Sunday Mainichi and Weekly Asahi tabloids, an aide pressured Koizumi to break up with his wife for the sake of his political career.

Koizumi is a third generation politician who won his first seat in Parliament in his father's district.

His ex-wife, identified only by her first name, Kayoko, told the Weekly Asahi that she didn't fit the mold of a political family.

"I didn't make enough of an effort and wasn't able to support him," she was quoted as saying.

Koizumi has hinted that he has no intention of remarrying, saying repeatedly that it "took more energy to get divorced than to get married."

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Miserable marriage can hurt a woman's heart

A story published today by the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that eating high-cholesterol foods and avoiding exercise aren't the only ways women may be damaging their cardiovascular health these days. A recent study shows that a miserable marriage can be hazardous to the woman's heart.

In the latest study linking emotions and physical health, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh explored whether the quality of a relationship affects a woman's well-being.   The research found that unhappily married women were at a much higher risk for dying of cardiovascular disease. Stress from the deteriorating relationship could be a risk factor for the early development of atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, the study said.

The findings of which were unveiled at a recent conference of the American Psychosomatic Society, was one of the first to look at emotional stresses and the quality of a marriage, rather than just marital status. Troxel said the findings help explain why marriage has been shown to be good for women's health in some studies and not in others.

There's nothing new to the notion that stress can make a person sick and positive thoughts can heal. But "until now, we haven't had the scientific tools to prove these connections in a rigorous, scientific way," said Dr.Esther Sternberg of the National Institute of Mental Health.

In the realm of heart disease, psychological factors are increasingly being recognized as playing a significant role.

Other studies have shown that people who work in high-pressure jobs with little control over their work are at increased risk of heart disease.

In Troxel's study, researchers decided to compare the health of women without a partner, the health of women in a satisfying relationship and the health of women in a dissatisfying relationship.

"Most studies began in men, and findings are pretty consistent: Married men tend to have lower mortality (rates) than unmarried men," Troxel said.

"Women are not as consistent, and the purpose was to look at the qualitative aspects. Previous research suggests interpersonal stressors may be particularly relevant for women."

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and Ronald Glaser of the Ohio State University College of Medicine have long looked at physiological consequences of marital behavior. Last year, Kiecolt-Glaser found that abrasive arguments between husbands and wives -- married an average of 42 years -- were linked to a weakening of certain aspects of the couples' immune responses.

"In terms of marriage, women are more attuned to negativity and more responsive to physiological and psychological changes," said Kiecolt-Glaser, who is studying stress and wound healing between couples to test the immune system.

Arizona governor repeals sex law

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Arizona law on unmarried couples living together, sodomy and sex not intended to conceive children are no longer crimes against the state.

Gov. Jane Hull signed the HB2016 Tuesday, repealing the archaic sex laws.

"Fundamentally, it came down to government not interfering in people's lives," Hull spokeswoman Francie Noyes said when announcing the decision.

"The governor and I agree that the state has no compelling interest in the lives of consenting adults," said Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, who sponsored the repeal bill.

"This has been a debate in the Legislature for the last 20 years," May said."This ends the debate. Anybody that tries to proactively put them back onto the books will be laughed out of office."

The Center for Arizona Policy, a Scottsdale-based conservative advocacy group, encouraged people to call or e-mail Hull and ask her to veto the bill, leading to an avalanche of messages.

"We're extremely disappointed," Cathi Herrod, an attorney and lobbyist for the center, said. "It's another step in devaluing marriage as the foundation of our society."

Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, said Hull's decision puts the state's stamp of approval on activities she disagrees with.

"For the state to now say to everyone, including young people, that there's nothing wrong with this, from the policy standpoint it's just as wrong as can be," Johnson said.

As of Monday, the governor had received more than 5,700 phone calls and e-mails offering suggestions about what she should do.

"I think the pressure and the high feelings on both sides has been out-of-bounds as far as the importance of the legislation versus what it really does," Hull said Tuesday morning during a visit to Tucson. "I think that we've had a lot of people who are very focused on that while I think about 98 percent of the state probably does not even know the bill exists."

In a letter to House Speaker Jim Weiers, Hull said the sex laws are not enforced and cannot be enforced.

"Keeping archaic laws on the books does not promote high moral standards; instead, it teaches the lesson that laws are made to be broken," she said.

"Moral standards are set by families and those they turn to for guidance, such as religious and community leaders. We learn much more from watching their behavior than from any written laws or rules."

Minnesota Governor may offer partnership benefits

A story released today by PlanetOut reports that the Minnesota Senate decided not to prevent the state's governor from offering state employees domestic partner benefits.

The Minnesota Senate cleared the way for Gov. Jesse Ventura to extend health benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

By a 36-31 margin, the body voted to approve an amendment to a state finance bill that will allow Ventura to put the benefits on the table during current negotiations with employee unions. Governor Ventura has been fighting for the ability to offer
domestic partner benefits since last fall.

The Senate action was a reversal of its 37-29 vote on Monday to restrict benefits to spouses, children and grandchildren of state employees.

Senators who backed the governor argued that legislators should not interfere with the executive branch's ability to negotiate contracts.

"We're taking an extraordinary step ... an unprecedented step," the Pioneer Press quoted Democratic Sen. Myron Orfield as saying.

Although the House must still take up the bill, the Senate's decision means that state negotiators will likely be able to offer the benefits soon. Employees not covered by a union, however, would still be ineligible for domestic partner coverage.

Tuesday, May 8, 2001

London study shows that women with technology degrees are less likely to marry

A story published today by Ananova a publication from England reports that researchers claim that women who undertake degrees in technology are least likely to marry.

The study by the Institute of Education in London has found more than 40% of female technology graduates between 25 and 44 were unmarried.

The study also revealed that among women who graduated in natural sciences or non-science subjects, the figure was 32%, while for those who studied subjects like medicine only 27% remained single.

"The marriage rates in health subjects may be high because the jobs they lead to tend to have the most feminized environments - a more or less 50-50 female-male split in some occupations." said Louisa Blackwell of the Institute of Education in London.

"In subjects such as medicine, where there are more women, they are in a position to push through family-friendly work practices, offering more scope for lifestyle flexibility." she added.

British conservative leader pledges hard-line stance on unwed mothers on upcoming elections

A story published today in the Guardian Unlimited reports that  British conservative leader William Hague yesterday unveiled a series of hard-line policies in an attempt to shore up the Tory vote in the local and general elections  scheduled on June 7.

At the launch of the Tory manifesto for the local elections, Mr. Hague pledged to put pressure on councils to make unmarried young mothers live at home rather than take up precious public housing.

Mr. Hague hopes to encourage a high turnout on June 7 by pledging to introduce a series of hard-line measures that will appeal to traditional Tory supporters.

The pledges unveiled in the local election manifesto provided a taste of the rightwing policies which will form the centerpiece of the Tories' general election manifesto.

In a section in the local election manifesto, entitled Helping Teenage Mothers and Families, the Tories pledged to scrap Labor plans to house unmarried teenage mothers in special hostels.

"The first question when an unwed teenager is pregnant should not be whether there is council flat for her, but whether her parents can support her and her child when she finishes school or look for work," the manifesto said. "Councils and housing associations need to think very carefully about the signals they send out when they allocate social housing."

Threatening to remove the right of unmarried young mothers to a council flat might upset some Tories on the left of the party.

They remember the embarrassment the party faced in the 1990s when the former social security secretary, Peter Lilley, launched his notorious "little list" crackdown on teenage mothers.

The Tory leadership also underlined a couple of key issues that addresses local concerns in its determination to fight the elections from the right.

Monday, May 7, 2001

Brazilian same sex unions bill sparks battle

A story released by Reuters reports that Brazilian legislators are preparing to vote on a bill on Wednesday that could legalize same sex unions in a country that has the world's biggest Catholic population.

Gay rights activists hail the legislation which would allow homosexual couples to transfer property assets and extend benefits like social security and health plans to partners.

Latin America's biggest country is considered socially progressive for the region, but the bill could still face opposition from conservatives in Congress and a growing number of evangelicals as well as the local Catholic church.

The project was first introduced in 1995 by Marta Suplicy, who was a federal deputy then and is now the left-leaning mayor of Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo, but failed to rally support.

"There is a lot of prejudice against anything that has to do with homosexuals and within the gay movement there is a noisy sector that appears in the media in brides' veils...that has affected the debate in Congress," says lawmaker Roberto Jefferson who has reintroduced and modified the bill allowing the extension of benefits to any kind of same-sex partner.

Despite the changes, legislators like Deputy Bishop Rodriguez, who heads up the evangelical bench in Congress, said that passage of the bill could just be a first step toward legalizing gay marriages -- a measure he staunchly opposes.

"Even though the project would not legalize same sex marriage it opens a door," Rodriguez said. "This goes against the natural laws dictated by God."

On the other side of the battlefield, gay rights activists have staunchly launched a campaign defending the bill.

This time around, defenders of the bill have a point in their favor: since the legislation was first introduced, courts in Rio Grande do Sul state have recognized the rights of gay partners to receive health and social security benefits.

Still, most gay activists recognize the importance of ensuring the rights on a federal level.

"There is always the risk...of a homophobic judge finding a way to overlook the rulings," said Caio Varela, a lawyer at Attitude Institute, which gives legal and psychological assistance to homosexuals.

"With the law there would be nothing to discuss, the partnership would be clearly defended," Varela said.

The bill will be voted in the lower house on May 9 and if approved it will go on to the Senate.

Sunday, May 6, 2001

Wisconsin now has more ways to collect child support

A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin's child support agencies think they now have their best opportunity to enforce payments from parents in arrears and reduce the sea of bad debt washing over the state's child support system with new tools at their disposal.

Those new tools are the result of the Federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

Without a court order, the Bureau of Child Support can attach a lien to houses and property. At the time of sale, the child support debt becomes out of the proceeds.

Agencies can also seize bank and investment accounts now without court order. The back child support amount is deducted from the accounts.

Fishing, hunting, driving and even professional licenses can also be placed under suspension until the child support obligations are paid off.

"We are giving people every opportunity to come forward and settle up," said Rachel Biittner, with the state Department of Workforce Development. "But if you don't, we have the tools to get the money owed those families."

The child support lien docket started in October 2000. Anyone owing $30,000 was placed on the docket, but that threshold has been slowly lowered; as of Saturday, anyone who owes $15,000 will be placed on the docket, Biittner said.

John Hayes, Milwaukee County child support enforcement director, said his office recently collected $82,000 through the lien docket.

"Holy smokes, it's great," he said. "The money is just rolling in. It is an invaluable tool for us."

Washington County, on the other hand, netted $53,000 from one parent within the last few months, according to Assistant County Attorney Christine Ohlis. The man was living out of state and had been sent a letter about his debt.

He had been placed on the docket and he was selling property in Wisconsin," she said. "He contacted us to cooperate in getting the child support debt paid off."

That payment was part of $397,437 collected so far under the docket program statewide.

Ohlis said the administrative tools help make the most of her staff's time.

"I'd love to have a bigger budget and more staff and investigators, but that's not reality," she said. "The lien docket, license suspension - those types of programs are wonderful, and the result is that we're getting tougher."

While lien dockets have produced the quickest results for agents, two account seizures are pending, according to Biittner, with the owners of accounts recently receiving letters. One parent owes $47,000 and authorities will seize that amount from an account worth $500,000.

The license revocations will soon be fully implemented, she said. Local agencies will have full discretion on whether to suspend professional licenses, going after everyone from truckers to doctors. The agencies probably will use the tactic with some caution.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to take away a person's livelihood when you want them to pay child support," Biittner said.

When all else fails she said, there is always criminal prosecution to fall back on.

Saturday, May 5, 2001

Online visitation a new tool in divorce

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that for better or worse, the long-distance prowess of Internet technology is expected to play an expanding role as divorce cases reach America's courtrooms. The pivotal question: Should the prospect of ``virtual visitation'' -- through e-mail, instant messages and video-conferencing -- make it easier for a custodial parent to get permission to move?

A New Jersey appeals court broached this new legal frontier earlier this year. It ruled that online visiting would be a ``creative and innovative'' way for a father to stay in touch with his 9-year-old daughter if the man's ex-wife moved to California over his objections.

Eventhough the woman later decided against moving, the ruling intrigued family-law specialists and alarmed fathers-rights advocates.

``This will be another tool for judges to further distance fathers from their children's lives,'' said Stuart Miller of the American Fathers Coalition, whose group believes family courts are biased in favor of mothers.

Legal experts think it's inevitable that custodial parents seeking to move will propose virtual visitation in hopes of swaying judges.

``From now on, if I have clients who want to move, I'd tell them to offer to buy a (Web) camera and set that up,'' said Norma Trusch, a family-law attorney from Houston.

``It's true that you can't hug a computer,'' said Trusch, quoting a mantra of virtual visitation opponents. ``On the other hand, it's possible with these communication methods to maintain a very close, continual relationship with a child.''

Linda Elrod, who chairs the American Bar Association's family law section, said judges won't be able to ignore the new technology as they weigh conflicting pleas from divorced parents.

Many divorced parents already use virtual visitation -- not under court order but because it helps them maintain ties with faraway children.

Jim Buie, an Internet consultant from Takoma Park, Md., has published an online journal about his efforts to stay in touch with his son, Matthew -- now 17 -- in the eight years since Matthew and Buie's ex-wife moved to North Carolina.

``Virtual parenting is not a panacea. You're still going to have the heartache of not being together,'' Buie said. ``But, alas, it's better than no relationship at all.''

Robert Whitfield of Reston, Va., has tried using the Internet to sustain a long-distance relationship with two sons who moved with his ex-wife to New Jersey. He's concerned that court-ordered Web visits could hurt dads in the long run.

``Gaining access to their children for most fathers is difficult at best,'' Whitfield said. ``It is likely to become more difficult when a mother says to a judge: 'Johnny can talk to his father on the computer whenever he wants to.'''

No federal laws govern move-aways; they are resolved case by case based on court precedents and state legislation.

In recent years, some courts have made it easier for custodial parents to relocate. In California, for example, a parent simply needs to demonstrate that a move is in the child's best interest; in the past, there had to be urgent circumstances.

In other states, however, legislators have tightened move-away criteria. For example, requiring a longer advance notice before a custodial parent can move.

``We're afraid the Internet will be seen as a trend to make move-aways easier -- we want to make them harder,'' said David Levy, president of Children's Rights Council, which promotes the rights of noncustodial parents.

Richard Crouch, a Virginia lawyer who formerly chaired the ABA's child custody committee, said move-away cases have become ``part of the wars of sexual politics,'' with feminist groups pressing to make relocation more commonplace.

The co-president of the National Women's Law Center, Nancy Duff Campbell, said her Washington-based group believes courts should ease restrictions on move-aways.

``If there must be separation, it's something that can help the families,'' she said.

Friday, May 4, 2001

Texas doctors agree to urge abstinence as best for young, single patients

A story published today in the Houston Chronicle reports that Texas doctors agreed Friday to promote sexual abstinence as the best option for unmarried, adolescent patients shifting their strategy in the war on teen-age pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

At the annual meeting of the Texas Medical Association's, delegates voted to change their policy to say "the healthiest and most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in unmarried adolescents is abstinence." Their old policy placed more emphasis on contraceptive choices.

"We hope this strong statement by the medical community will empower parents," said Dr. John Gill, a Dallas orthopedic surgeon who sponsored one of three pro-abstinence resolutions combined into the one approved.

"We're not afraid to take a stand on risky behaviors such as drugs, smoking and drinking and driving. There's no reason we should be afraid to take a stance on this."

Gill emphasized that the new policy is not abstinence only.

The policy is meant to guide TMA's public health advocacy efforts, not what individual doctors tell their patients in practice.

The sponsors cited a recent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on adolescent sexual behavior as evidence of the need for policy change.

Of more than 15,000 adolescent students studied by the CDC, their report found that nearly half had had sexual intercourse and more than 16 percent had had sex with at least four partners.

The issue sparked a lively debate, not over whether sexual abstinence should be part of the policy but over its exact wording.

Dr. Jan Realini of San Antonio argued that saying abstinence is the "best" preventative behavior might be misinterpreted as "religious or moral stands," and that there isn't "scientific evidence" to say it is the "most effective."

Doctors approved the abstinence policy even though the committee that considered the three proposed resolutions had recommended deferring them to another committee for further study because of the lack of unambiguous data on the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy and disease.

But Dr. Roland Goertz, a Waco family practitioner and chairman of the committee that recommended deferral, said the final wording approved was his committee's fallback position.

Everyone on the committee, he said, agreed that abstinence needs to be better promoted but felt they didn't have time to craft the best mechanism for that.

Goertz said the committee will continue studying what are the next best methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

The TMA policy says many contraceptive methods are suitable for teen-agers, though there is "no ideal method that is 100 percent effective, free of side effects, inexpensive and unencumbered by forethought or planning." It calls on doctors to identify adolescents at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy.

AASP pushes for tax rights

A story published today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Kathleen O'Neill,a 45-year-old planning consultant from St. Paul, says that she and 82 million other single adult Americans have not been factored into the current tax debate.

"I've noticed it since the presidential election," said O'Neill,  "With all the references to family, singles and unmarried Americans are just being dismissed."

Democrats champion "working families"; Republicans honor "family values." But one mostly overlooked fact in the discussion of the so-called marriage penalty is that just as many married couples enjoy a "marriage bonus."

A three-day lobbying push this week by singles-rights organizations in Washington underscores how the tax debate has been pulled in opposite directions by two trends: the tremendous increase in the number of two-earner families and the rapid growth of nontraditional families led by unmarried people.

"All we hear about is families, families, families," said Stephanie Knapik, spokeswoman for the American Association of Single People (AASP), a lobby group for singles. "And we're just ready to gag."

The Los Angeles-based AASP says singles also feel discrimination in estate taxes, which favor only spouses -- not domestic partners, friends, significant others, or even other relatives.

"If you give [the estate] to your spouse, it's OK," Knapik said. "But if you give it to anyone else, it's taxed."

There are those who are unapologetic about the tax code's bias in favor of marriage. Former Rep. Bill Archer, a Texas Republican who led the House Ways and Means Committee, once said of the tax disparity, "We unabashedly help stay-at-home moms."

The AASP, which has members in Minnesota, also lauds that goal, but notes that many single people also are raising kids. To help parents, it says, there are child tax credits.

What the AASP wants is a marriage-neutral tax code. AASP executive director Thomas Coleman asks, "why should Congress be trying to encourage or discourage that highly personal choice" of marriage?

One reason, he says, is that married people vote at higher rates than singles. Although single people make up 40 percent of the voting age population, he said, they were only 36 percent of the vote in last year's presidential election.

He also says that standing up for families makes political sense for many legislators. Take Minnesota Rep. Bill Luther, normally a loyal Democrat. Democratic leaders in Congress opposed Bush's proposal to reduce the marriage penalty, saying it cost too much and benefited even those married couples who don't pay a penalty.

But Luther's east Twin Cities suburban district has about 80,000 tax-paying married couples affected by the Bush plan, the largest number of any congressional district in the state. Last month, he joined 64 other House Democrats in voting for Bush's marriage tax relief.

Other Minnesota House members were more skeptical. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who sided with Bush on his across-the-board income tax rate cuts, nevertheless declined to defect from his party's ranks on marriage tax relief.

With delays in marriage, widespread divorce and women living longer, unmarried America also keeps growing. In 1970, the census counted 37.5 million unmarried adults, then 28 percent of all adults. In a 2000 census survey, the number of unmarried adults was more than 81.5 million, or 40 percent.

In Minnesota, single tax filers accounted for 48 percent of all tax returns in 1999, according to the state Revenue Department.

One of them was from O'Neill, who sees the tax advantages bestowed upon married couples as one of a number of subtle societal slights that treat singles as something less than whole people.

"On a basic level, we don't respect individuals to be what they want to be," O'Neill said. And while she's open to marriage, "we have to become more inclusive of what the American Dream can be."

Illinois premarital counseling bill fails in committee

A story published today by the Herald News reports that Chicago divorce lawyer Gemma Allen, believes that couples planning to marry should have to take four hours of Marriage 101 before their wedding day and she wants a state law to enforce it.

Such a bill passed in the Illinois Senate last month. But on Wednesday, it failed 8-4 in the House's civil judiciary committee, missing a key deadline. The bill is now being amended with hopes it can get an extension and pass this session.

One obstacle to this proposal has been the county clerks who oppose the plan. Enforcing it, they say, would create hardships. It's a mandate without money to carry it out. And Will County Clerk Jan Gould adds this question: Is it really the government's business, anyway?

But now, these opponents might be out of the equation. Allen understands many of their concerns, and is coming up with a revision that doesn't include county clerks.

Instead, judges or clergy people would find out if a person got premarital counseling, under an amended bill Allen is proposing.

Still, one concern doesn't carry any weight with Allen: the one about whether it's the government's business.

Nationwide, there are 1 million children affected each year by divorce, and $150 billion is spent in federal and state dollars to support and subsidize single-parent families.

"People say, 'I don't want government in marriage. Then teach people how to do it better. Once there's a divorce, government is all over marriage," Allen said.

The failed bill would have required couples to have four hours of premarital education to get their marriage license without delay. If couples refused the premarital education, they would have to wait 60 days before the county clerk would issue them a license.

"I can see this scenario," Gould said. "A couple coming in and having this big wedding planned. It's a first-class wedding, and I'm going to have to tell them ...they can't get married next week or next day because they don't have a (pre-marriage education) certificate."

Allen's amended bill would shorten the delay to 45 days and assign responsibilities to judges or clergy people.

Clerks would give out marriage licenses, but a clergy person or judge would request that couples sign an affidavit saying they took a premarital education class in order to get married within 45 days.

Licenses are valid for 60 days. If they have their premarital education, they can get married immediately or they can wait 45 days.

Allen said the amended version also would include people who are indigent and can't afford premarital education. They would be excluded from the requirement.

Allen said county clerks have agreed to put a handout in their booklet regarding the statute, but won't be required to implement it.

Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Rep. Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington Hills, are sponsoring the bill.

Pastor James Dougherty, of St. Paul of the Apostle Church in Joliet, thinks premarital counseling is a good idea.

"Marriage is for adults, and they need to assume the responsibilities and duties of marriage so we go into the areas of finance, spirituality, communication, conflict resolution, family planning and church attendance," Doughtery said.

Divorce has a lifelong effect on children, said Allen, who is divorced and remarried. "Children of divorce haven't seen enough people get through a lifetime commitment - they're adverse to commitment because they're afraid after seeing the pain of divorce," she said.

"We do know kids from divorced homes suffer as children, and they suffer as adults," said Jim Kubalewski, executive director of the Family Counseling Agency in Joliet. "When you divorce, that's not private anymore, and when children don't have parental support and father support, and are on public aid - that's not a private issue. It's a societal issue. When prisons are filled with men and woman who did not have fathers at home, this is a public issue."

Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Bush pushes reform of Social Security

A story published today by the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that President Bush made his case for private Social Security accounts Wednesday, saying younger workers "might as well be saving their money in their mattresses," considering the return they now get from the program's investments.

"And the return will only decline further, maybe even below zero if we do not proceed with reform," said Bush, who named a commission to recommend ways to fix the system. Members include both Republicans and Democrats who favor partially privatizing the federal retirement plan. Democratic leaders oppose that idea.

The commission is to present its findings to Bush in the fall, and should include a plan to allow younger workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in private accounts, he said. Any recommendation would be subject to congressional approval.

The White House acknowledged that Bush stacked the commission with members who favor privatization, saying "it should surprise no one" that Bush wanted a commission that would embrace his ideas about preserving Social Security.

Co-chairmen  for the commission will be former Democratic New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Richard Parsons, AOL Time Warner's co-chief operating officer.

"This is a stacked, completely orchestrated effort to come to a desired result," said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

By 2016, Social Security is expected to start paying out more than it collects because of the increase of baby boom retirees. The fund will run out of cash after 2038.

Bush has proposed salvaging the program by letting younger workers voluntarily invest some of their payroll taxes in private accounts. Supporters say the stock market will provide a much greater return over time.

Opponents, however, point to recent stock market volatility as a reason not to have such accounts. They also argue the private accounts would drain too much money from the program.

"After the last six months in the stock market I am shocked that the president would really be trying to move forward with this proposal," House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said.

The optimistic scenario is to get a bill to Congress by year's end for quick action before next year . But Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank promoting privatization, said that more realistically, the issue likely would be tackled in 2003.

Partial privatization of social security is one way to eliminate the system's unfairness to unmarried workers.  Under the current system, all benefits are forfeited when an unmarried worker dies, although a surviving spouse may collect benefits for many years after a married worker dies. With partial privatization, unmarried workers would own a portion of their benefits and could pass them on to a beneficiary after their death.

Some unmarried workers oppose the idea of partial privatization, however, fearing that unmarried workers who make bad investments will be worse off under such a system than they are with the current system.

Scholars with varying viewpoints dispel marriage myths and oversimplifications

A story published today by the Boston Globe reports that prominent scholars met in New York April 27-May 1 to explore differing views on marriage, divorce, and cohabitation. The conference, sponsored by the Council on Contemporary Families and organized around the theme, ''Beyond the Marriage Wars.''

The researchers noted that on average, married people are healthier and better off economically than single or divorced individuals, and their children do better psychologically. ''But when researchers study average outcomes,'' pointed out University Of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenburg, a senior research associate at the Council on Contemporary Families, ''we often overgeneralize about small differences that are not evenly distributed within the population we're discussing. When these differences are translated into sound bites, they produce excessive anxiety and guilt for parents and often result in bad public policy.''

For example, while happy marriages provide significant emotional rewards and health benefits, unhappy marriages do not, and they seem to harm women more than men, so that making divorce harder to get is not necessarily a protection for women. High conflict in a marriage, researchers agreed, is generally worse for kids than divorce, while children in low-conflict marriages are often disadvantaged by divorce.

But while panelists advocated providing more counseling for such parents, they rejected the idea of pressuring such couples into staying married.

CCF Research Fellow Philip Cowan, director of the Institute for Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley, also reported that in the longitudinal studies of married couples he and Carolyn Pape Cowan have investigated, some children in low-conflict, cold marriages perceived their parents as having high-conflict marriages. Robert-Jay Green, Director of the Alternative Families Project, commented that in his clinical experience, low-conflict, disengaged marriages often end in affairs, which might well turn them into high conflict marriages, the worst scenario for children, if they did not have the option to divorce.

As Cowan summed up the conference consensus, ''The debate on marriage so far has been polarized in ways that allow people on both sides to avoid thinking about the services families really need. One side says make divorce harder; the other says accept family diversity. These are cheap, easy, and ultimately ineffective responses. We need to help more marriages work by giving couples more access to counseling and alleviating the stresses they face in today's work world. But we also need ways to help stepfamilies succeed and unmarried or divorced parents work more effectively with their children.''

 Conference participants also pointed out several other facts and trends that are often distorted in popular debates over family life:

               -- Divorce rates are not at an all time high, but have fallen by 26 percent since their peak in 1981, according to sociologist Steven Nock of the University of Virginia.

               -- Almost half of the children in ''single parent'' families actually live with both biological parents, reported two separate researchers, Sarah McLanahan of Princeton University and Andrew Cherlin of John Hopkins.

               -- Marriage rates may be 43 percent lower today than in 1960, said Stephanie Coontz, national co-chair of CCF, but in 1890 they were also 43 percent lower than in 1960. ''It may make dramatic headlines, but it doesn't help us understand what's happening to marriage if we compare everything to the year when marriage rates reached their all-time historical high.''

               -- It's not marriage per se, but two-income marriages that protect children from economic reverses.

Barbara Risman, co-chair of CCF with Coontz, heralded the conference as a breakthrough for reasoned discussion over simplistic slogans, and vowed that the organization would try to reach the press and policy-makers to explain why ''today's family issues are too complex to be settled by one-size-fits-all responses.''

Pair fights 1846 Michigan law that won't let them marry

A story published today by the Detroit Free Press reports that Holly Garcia and Jerome Huizar wedding plans came to a screeching halt last week when the couple went to apply for a marriage license and were told they couldn't legally wed.

Michigan law makes it illegal for a developmentally disabled person or a person with a guardian to marry. Huizar, who has Down syndrome and is mildly retarded, has a guardian. Garcia does not have a guardian, but is mildly retarded and has Williams syndrome, a genetic condition similar to Down.

Crushed at the rejection, Garcia and Huizar decided to fight back.

"Handicapped people have rights, too," Garcia said."People shouldn't stop anyone from getting married because they're handicapped."

Huizar, with the help of the nonprofit Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service Inc., filed a request in Tuscola County Probate Court to have his guardians, who are his brother and sister, removed.

He was unsuccessful and has appealed to the Tuscola Circuit Court.

Advocates for the disabled, meanwhile, are fighting to change state laws. Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Temperance, introduced a bill that would remove an 1846 law that makes it a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison for people it calls "imbeciles" to marry. The bill (Senate Bill 67) has made its way through the Senate and is expected to soon pass the House.

A second bill dealing with marriage for people with guardians was also introduced in March by Sen. Glenn Steil, R-Grand Rapids. This bill would permit a person with a guardian to marry while giving the guardian the opportunity to object. The bill is in a Senate committee and is expected to be worked on this summer.

People with guardians are considered legally incapacitated and therefore unable to enter into contracts. But Kathleen Harris, Huizar's attorney, said the contract of marriage is not like a financial contract.

"Marriage is a fundamental right. I don't think you can blanket take it away from someone," she said.

Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Survey shows young single women avoid saving for the future

A story released today over PR Newswire reports that a new national survey found that young single women realize the importance of saving and investing but are more inclined to spend, according to the results of a national survey.

The survey was commissioned by Oppenheimer Funds, Inc., one of the nation's leading mutual fund families, and was conducted in association with Third Millennium, an advocacy group for young Americans, and the Sutra Foundation, a
non-profit foundation that seeks to empower Gen X women through financial education.

"Savings and investing-wise, single Gen X women are where women in general were a decade ago -- increasingly empowered and aware but not doing what they should," said Bridget A. Macaskill, Oppenheimer Funds chairman and CEO.

"Money management is a fundamental issue for Gen X women," Macaskill said. "Look at the ledger: longer life expectancy and lower earnings than men, movement in and out of the workforce, family responsibilities, high debt accumulation. It all adds up to the fact that women must save early, invest aggressively and spend less."

The Oppenheimer Funds survey of single Gen X women was part of a larger survey of 1,205 Americans ages 21 to 34 conducted by the national polling firm of Yankelovich Partners, Inc. It included 803 women, of whom 401 were single. Of the 401 single women surveyed, 69% were single and living alone, 14% were living with a significant other, 14% were divorced or separated and 3% widowed. The survey  also included 231 single men.

While single women think about retirement -- and may even believe that they are successfully saving for it -- their desire for short-term gratification takes precedence.

Of the women surveyed, one half of single women said that at this point in their lives money is for spending and not saving, three out of four said it was important to look successful and 54% said they were likely to accumulate 30 pairs of shoes before accumulating $30,000 in retirement savings.

Partly as a result of these spending patterns, significantly more single young women (53%) say they live paycheck to paycheck than do single young men (42%).

"The message aimed at young women and young men alike is spend, spend, spend -- not save, save, save," said Vanessa Summers, founder of the Sutra Foundation. "From beer to fashion to credit, consumption is sexy. Like the Carrie Bradshaw character on Sex and the City, single young women value looking good -- and spend to make sure they do."

Summers said that credit card debt is a major issue for Gen Xers -- single women in particular. "Credit card debt is a 10-lb weight around the necks of many Gen Xers, and if we're not careful, it will take us under," Summers said. "Financial services providers should market saving and investing with all the savvy and imagination with which they sell credit cards to young people."

Single Gen X women say they would save more with a little guidance and encouragement. Two-thirds of Gen X single women not currently saving for retirement said learning how to better manage their debts would strongly motivate them to start saving.

When it comes to saving for retirement, single women have a lengthy road ahead, as they have the least amount saved for retirement of those surveyed. The typical Gen X single woman -- as described by the median or middle response -- has  $4,000 in retirement savings.

Encouragingly, only 17.5% of the single women surveyed say they have no retirement assets. Of those with retirement dollars, savings accounts are the most popular option, used by 66%, followed by company pension plans (35%) and 401(k) or 403(b) plans, 27%. Almost half of single women surveyed -- 47% -- say they are satisfied with the amount of money they are currently saving.

Experts say employer-sponsored retirement plans are probably the best way to engage Gen Xers in saving and investing.

"Our generation faces the longest and steepest climb to retirement --and no one faces a longer or steeper climb than single women," said Richard Thau, president of Third Millennium, the Gen X advocacy group. "These women need to start saving soon or face a harsh retirement reality decades from now."

"For most of us, the first real investment decision we're asked to make is whether or not to participate in our employer-sponsored retirement plan, and, if so, how much we'll contribute," Thau said. "With only a third of GenXers participating in these plans, it's clear that too many of us are making the wrong choices."

Forty-seven percent of single Gen X women surveyed said they are "not very knowledgeable" about investing -- versus 33% of single Gen X men. Forty-four percent of single young women rate their money management abilities at five or less on a ten point scale -- compared to 39% of single men.

Only one in five (21%) single young women say they use a financial advisor. By far and away, family and friends are the primary source of investment guidance for most single young women, cited by 43% of those surveyed. It was followed by financial advisors (17%), their employer (11%) and the media (11%).

The survey also found that while single young women have been slow to engage financial advisors, their attitudes toward them have improved dramatically. Thirty-four percent of single young women believe women are treated with as much respect by financial advisors as men are -- that compares with 25% in Oppenheimer Funds' 1992 research.

"In recent years, financial advisors have played a growing role in encouraging and helping women to take responsibility for their finances," Macaskill said, "We think there is a particular opportunity for advisors with the current generation of young women."

"Young women today are much more financially aware and motivated than previous generations. At the same time, they are overly reliant on the investment opinions of family and friends -- opinions that are well-intentioned but not necessarily well-informed," Macaskill said. "That's why we believe young women constitute a natural constituency for professional financial advice."

Arizona legislators approves repeal of sex laws

A story published today by the Arizona Republic reports that seven years after lawmakers first tried to repeal the state's century-old sex laws, the Legislature on Monday approved taking the laws off the books.

With an 18-11 vote, the Senate gave their final approval to send House Bill 2016 to the governor.

"Lawmakers have finally recognized the inappropriateness of the government regulating behavior between consenting adults," said Kathie Gummere, a lobbyist for the Arizona Human Rights Fund, a group that supported the bill.

But the bill's fate on the governor's desk is unclear.

Francie Noyes, a spokesperson for Gov. Jane Hull, said that the governor has received more calls regarding archaic sex laws than any other issue this session, all urging Hull to veto the bill.

"The governor keeps her own counsel on these things, and she hasn't told anybody yet what she plans to do," Noyes said.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, repeals laws that make cohabitation, sodomy and any non-procreational sex acts illegal.

The bill deletes clauses that list "open and notorious cohabitation," the "infamous crime against nature" and any "lewd or  lascivious act . . . with the intent of arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passion or sexual desires" as illegal.

The misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Under the new law, adultery would still remain a crime.

Critics called the bill an attack on the traditional family and immoral.

Sen. Scott Bundgaard, R-Glendale, voted against the bill, saying that repealing the laws would be akin to "normalizing the acts."

May said the laws are ambiguous and used as a discriminatory tool and keep unmarried couples from getting a tax break.

Monday, April 30, 2001

Fatherhood: involvement in the baby's life

A story released today by United Press International reports that Columbia University professor Ron Mincy addressed the effects of "fatherlessness" at a forum titled "Connecting Fathers and Families" at the Thurgood Marshall Center Monday.

The program at the former YMCA building was organized by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and underwritten by the Freddie Mack Foundation.

Mincy summarized new data about the paternal influence on the mother's prenatal care, a father's involvement with his baby one year after its birth and in the child's education.

Mincy stated that fathers, particularly married fathers, play an important role in reducing smoking and drinking among expectant mothers. But this influence decreases "as the relationship becomes more tenuous."

The key variable affecting whether a father is actively involved in his child's life a year after the baby's birth is whether the other wanted to marry the father at the time of birth, Mincy said.

If the mother wanted to marry the father, the man's involvement increased dramatically. Of the men the mothers wanted no involvement with, only 30 percent remained highly involved with their children one year after the baby's birth.

Economic factors also play a role in relationships.

Among blacks, a man's economic situation determines whether a woman wants to marry the father of her child, Mincy said. Employed men have a 300 percent advantage over their jobless brethren.

But even if a man has a job, black mothers are still 15 percent less willing than women in other populations to marry the father of their child.

Black married fathers behave as well as any others, Mincy said, but only about 11 percent of black fathers are married to their children's mother one year after the child's birth. With 70 percent of African-American babies now born out of wedlock, Mincy said, the likelihood is low that their fathers will be involved in their education.

The good news is that students do better -- and are better behaved -- if even non-custodial fathers maintain involvement in their schoolwork. "It's not just contact," Mincy said, "it's what fathers actually do."

The United States has undergone a longstanding retreat from marriage, the professor said. The policy problem is figuring out how to increase marriage and marriage prospects. So far "nothing trumps the economic status" of the man, he said.

Theodora Ooms, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law & Social Policy, agreed that the retreat from marriage is a national problem.

Thirty percent of U.S. babies are born to unwed mothers, she said.

Ooms said a good marriage is the surest path to responsible fatherhood, and policymakers should "stop tiptoeing around the 'm' word." Ooms outlined what she thinks are six causes of the retreat from marriage.

 (1) Women's entry into the labor force. (This is not so relevant for blacks, she said, because black women have always worked.)

 (2) The disruptive effect of the old welfare system, which paid benefits only to households without men.

 (3) The sexual revolution and the decline of "shotgun marriages."

 (4) Among blacks, the literal shortage of men with so many dead or imprisoned.

 (5) Relationships between men and women now are freighted with unrealistic expectations, especially that the partner is supposed to make you happy.

 (6) Increasingly, fewer and fewer people have witnessed the ups and downs of intact marriages in which the partners work things out.

Nevertheless, Ooms said, marriage is still held in very high esteem, even where marriage rates are low.

It's not easy to reverse trends, the policy analyst said, and no one program will work to promote healthy marriages. However, it is important to target couples right before the time of birth.

Moderating  the event was the DLC chairman, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who has been a proponent of responsible fatherhood since his days as Indiana governor. In his opening remarks, the senator said that men have been irresponsible and women have been heroic.

Bayh's Congress member, Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., however, took another approach.

Many "deadbeat" fathers are actually "dead broke," she said. Carson said she knows it's not all men's fault. Some mothers accept child support but refuse fathers to form relationships with their children, she said, and some women drive a wedge between children and their fathers.

Sunday, April 29, 2001

Visits to Bahrain by single women restricted

A story released today by Reuters reports that Bahrain would restrict visits by single women to the conservative Gulf Arab state.

An Information Ministry official reported that single women wishing to visit Bahrain must obtain visas from Bahrain's embassies abroad or through companies employing them rather than waiting to receive visas at the airport, as most foreigners do.

"Women travelling alone will not be given visas upon arrival at the airport," the official told Reuters.

The move applies only to women, the official said, adding that families, couples and men would be granted visas on arrival. It was not immediately clear whether the restriction applied only to unmarried women, or to all women travelling alone, regardless of their marital status.

Friday, April 27, 2001

Arizona lawmakers approve the repeal of  century-old state sex laws

A story published today by the Arizona Republic reports that the Arizona Senate approved a measure to end Arizona's century-old sex laws and allow more couples to claim each other as dependents on their taxes.

The laws, which were drafted in the early 1900s, make unmarried cohabitation, sodomy and sex that is not intended to produce children illegal.

The Senate approved the measure, HB 2016, on a 17-11 vote.

Sen. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said the bill would lower the status of marriage and called the measure "a direct attack on the family."

"The basic fundamental contract of marriage is being challenged this day," he said. "It's because people don't exercise more self-discipline that more laws are required."

Supporters of the repeal say the laws are outdated and used to discriminate against homosexuals and unmarried couples.

"The language in the current statute goes beyond laughable," Sen. Mary Hartley, D-Phoenix, said about the law's reference to the "infamous crimes against nature" and "open and notorious cohabitation."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, argues that the law prevents some unmarried couples from taking advantage of a tax break that allows one to claim the other as a dependent on state or federal tax forms under certain circumstances.

Because the repeal would change tax law, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates as much as a $670,300 fiscal price tag.

With formal passage in both houses, the bill has been sent to Gov. Jane Hull's office for approval. The governor, however, wouldn't comment Thursday on whether or not she will sign the bill.

Tax code should be simplified

A story published by the New York Times reports that while there is wide disagreement on whether and how much to cut taxes in the United States, there is wide agreement that the country's tax system must be simplified.

The issue has received little attention in Congress this year, but the Senate Finance Committee is holding hearings on tax simplification for individuals.

Tax specialists from various political and economic viewpoints said the task would be difficult.

"We need tax simplification," said Nina Olson, the taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service. "But simplification will not be simple." Those questioned about it emphasized many of the same solutions: Ease the rules defining family status or tax individuals instead of families, revise the alternative minimum tax so it again applies to the rich instead of the middle class, eliminate all but one of the rules that phase out tax breaks as income rises and replace the complicated form used to report capital gains with a single line on tax returns.

The first place to address complexity is by getting the tax system out of the business of deciding who is a family, said William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research group in Washington.

"We ought to move from taxing a family unit to taxing individuals," said Mr. Niskanen, who was a senior Reagan administration tax official. "If we do that, we do not need special provisions on marriage penalties."

Ms. Olson said whether one is married, single or head of a household, and who gets the tax credits and deductions for children after a marriage collapses, add unnecessary burdens on taxpayers and on the Internal Revenue Service.

Many tax experts say that the area most in need of reform is the alternative minimum tax, which no longer applies to the people it was designed for, wealthy individuals who make aggressive use of tax shelters and deductions.

Congress abolished most tax shelters for individuals in 1986, but it did not adjust the minimum tax for inflation, so today it does not apply to those making more than $350,000. However, it does apply to a small but growing segment of the middle and upper-middle classes as well as some single mothers making just $28,000.

Last year a million people paid the tax, Treasury Department specialists estimate. Under current law the tax will apply to 21 million taxpayers. That would grow to 36 million under President George W. Bush's tax cut plan, according to an analysis by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, including about 80 percent of those making 80,000 to $200,000 annually.

Under Mr. Bush's plan, families with more than four children, people who live in higher-tax states such as New York and California and people who spend more than 7.5 percent of their income on medical bills would be affected by the alternative minimum tax.

But the alternative minimum tax does not apply to those who would get the biggest tax breaks under Mr. Bush's plan, the top 1 percent of taxpayers, who would receive in full the tax breaks he favors.

Several tax specialists said treating children as tax shelters, as the alternative minimum tax does, was unjustified. "I don't think anyone believes children are a tax shelter," said Charles Davenport, a Rutgers University law professor and editor in chief of Tax Notes, a weekly magazine.

A White House spokesman, Ken Lisaius, said, "It is very clear a problem exists with the alternative minimum tax, and the president is very sympathetic about the problem, but he believes Congress should tackle first the priorities he has set, to reduce marriage penalties and marginal tax rates and repeal the estate tax."

Congress has handed out tax breaks to parents, college students and the working poor, but each break has its own income limits and its own rules, which often conflict with other rules. The result is that many people are denied these breaks or cannot figure out how to get them or, if they do, join the dwindling number of taxpayers who are audited.

Mr. Niskanen said, he would eliminate the rules that phase out these credits. He believes that if Congress wants to give a tax credit for a child it should do so without regard to whether the child's parents are rich or poor.

The phasing out of personal exemptions and tax credits pushes people into higher tax brackets than the six official rates of 0, 15,28, 31, 36 and 39.6 percent. Some middle-class taxpayers, however, pay 80 cents in taxes on their last dollar of income, according to a comprehensive study of these phase-out rules and marginal tax rates by Elliott Manning, a law professor in Coral Gables, Florida.

Thursday, April 26, 2001

AASP marches on to the nation's capital

A story published today by the Hartford Courant reports that AASP, the latest civil rights movement fomenting in Southern California will bring its new millennium message to the nation's capital next week: Equal rights under tax law for the country's 82 million "unmarrieds."

Call it the revenge of the Bridget Jones brigade, or a backlash to married and married-with-kids tax and workplace benefits. The nonprofit American Association for Single People is vowing to "break the silence" about discrimination against those without a marriage certificate.

"Something is bubbling up here," said Thomas F. Coleman, the association's director. "People are getting sick of hearing about `working families.' Employers don't hire working families, they hire working people."

The association is calling for changes in tax law that would allow unmarried couples to file joint tax returns and to qualify for tax deductions for children they may be rearing. It also wants Congress to ease taxes on the estates of single people and to revise the Social Security tax structure to give a break to single people.

"We're not trying to tell Congress what to do, we just want to focus on the concerns of unmarried people,'' he said, while legislators are considering tax reforms that include the repeal of the so-called marriage penalty and an examination of the Social Security system.

Last Monday, the association ran a nearly full-page ad in the Washington Post seeking members and outlining its concerns under the headline, "82 Million Unmarried Americans Deserve to Know Why."

Tax experts, however, say that some of the assertions made by the association are overblown, and that making generalizations about how any particular group is taxed is risky.

"Nothing is absolute - it's all gray,'' said Robert Fochi, a certified public accountant from South Glastonbury, Conn. "That's the way taxes are, and that's the way life is.

"There are so many variables that you can say just about anything, and you can be correct,'' he said.

For example, the association's assertion that the estates of unmarried people are taxed up to 60 percent while the estates of married people can pass tax-free to a surviving spouse is true, Fochi said.

However, the typical estate tax kicks in only when estate assets hit $675,000 or more, he said. For estate taxes to approach the 60 percent mentioned in the association's ad, the assets left would have to be in the range of $10 million to $17 million.

"We're not talking a lot of people,'' Fochi said.But Coleman argues that to avoid inequities, the tax code, as well as benefits plans offered by employers, should be "marital status neutral."

With the number of unmarried adults doubling over the past 30 years, Coleman says he hopes the association grows to become a voice for single people in much the same way the 34 million-member American Association for Retired People represents the elderly.

"Even AARP started around a kitchen table in Ojai, Calif.,'' he said, acknowledging, however, that unmarried people are a "moving target, a little harder to capture."

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Georgia couple uses Vermont civil union to challenge Defense of Marriage Act

A story released today by CNS News reports that a year after Vermont became the first state in the union to grant marriage rights to same-sex partners, a lesbian couple is seeking to have a civil union they obtained in Vermont recognized in their home state of Georgia.

This is the first case of its kind where a person holding a Vermont civil union has attempted to enforce it outside of the state of Vermont, said Mathew Staver, president and general council of Liberty Council, a legal group.

When civil unions legislation was passed in Vermont a year ago this date, lawmakers rejected appeals to make state residency a requirement for couples to qualify.

Now a Georgia couple, Susan Burns and Debra Jean Freer, is asking a state appeals court to recognize a Vermont civil union. This is also the first challenge of the constitutionality of the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, Staver said.

When Susan Burns entered into a Vermont civil union with her lesbian partner, ex-husband Darian Burns filed a motion for contempt, saying she had violated the terms of their divorce by having her children visit her in the home she shares with her lesbian partner.

So far the state trial court has ruled in favor of the husband, stating that Georgia is not required to recognize the Vermont civil union. Last week the court of appeals for the state of Georgia accepted the case for review. Staver predicted the case will eventually go before the Georgia Supreme Court, and possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, no state is required to recognize the relationship of another state in which same sex unions are sanctioned.

Since the civil union law went into effect last July, Vermont has issued more than 1,800 civil unions, less than 500 of which went to state residents.

Marriages are down while divorces are up in China

A story published today by the Peoples Daily reports that the latest statistics in China show that last year's numbers saw a decrease of over 8.48 million newlyweds, and slight increase of 1.21 million couples divorcing when compared with the year before.

Since the 1990s, China has seen a decreased number of people of age getting married or registering for marriage.

In 1990, 9.51 million couples registered for marriage, 9.34 million in 1995, and 8.85 million in 1999. Meanwhile, an increased number of couples got divorced and as a result of social changes people's concept of marriage has also  changed. In 1990, 0.8 million couples were divorced, 1.05 million in 1995, and 12 million in 1999.

An authoritative view from the Ministry of Civil Affairs states that marriages and divorces in China represent a profound change taking place in Chinese families and that more people have come to lean on a comparatively modern open concept on marriage and family life in China.

Monday, April 23, 2001

Research shows that unwed parents have closer ties than expected

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that unmarried parents are usually romantically involved and often live with each other when their babies are born. This suggests that the prospects for marriage and stable family life may not be as dim as policy-makers have assumed, researchers say.

``The vast majority of unwed parents view themselves as families,'' concludes a paper by researchers at Columbia and Princeton universities being published Tuesday in the Children and Youth Services Review. ``At a minimum, policies designed to strengthen fragile families are consistent with parents' objectives and therefore, not foredoomed to failure.''

Researchers interviewed 3,600 unmarried parents -- plus 1,200 married parents as a comparison group -- at hospitals in 20 large cities. They plan to follow these families for at least four years to determine what factors push them closer together or pull them apart.

Policy makers are interested in these families partly because virtually all of the women who are on welfare -- or at risk of needing welfare -- are unmarried. Unwed parents and their children are considerably more likely to live in poverty and face more hardships than their married counterparts.

"The key is working with parents very soon after their babies are born -- when they are still involved romantically," said Sara McLanahan of Princeton University, a lead researcher on the Fragile Families project. ``We know that they break up very quickly,'' she said.

At the time of the child's birth, her research found:

 -48 percent of the unmarried parents were living together and another 34 percent were still involved romantically. Just 10 percent of the moms said they had little or no contact with the fathers of their children.

 --Three out of four dads visited the moms in the hospital, and 81 percent contributed money during pregnancy.

 --Most mothers predicted good chances for marriage down the line: 78 percent of mothers who were living with the fathers said their chances of marrying were good or almost certain. And half of the moms who were involved romantically but not living with the dads said the same.

 -69 percent of moms living with the dads, and 63 percent of other romantically linked moms said they believed that marriage is better for the kids.

``It doesn't look like their attitudes and values need to be changed very much,'' McLanahan said.

The research dispels the widespread belief that these unwed, usually poor parents have little if any potential as a couple, said Kristin Moore, senior scholar at Child Trends, who was not involved in this project.

``Many people thought that non-marital childbearing happens to teen-agers, happens to people who aren't in touch with one another and are no longer in love -- if they ever were, and who were not interested in marriage,'' she said.

In interviews soon after their babies are born, large numbers of mothers and fathers say they are interested in getting married.

Israeli Supreme Court rules in favor for lesbian mother relationship

A story released today by Tel-Aviv University paper reports that on March 19 2001, the Israeli Supreme Court gave its decision ruling that the rabbinical court had acted outside its jurisdiction when it ordered, that divorced woman could not be with her lesbian lover in the presence of her children. The rabbinical court made this order at the ex-husband's request, and the Supreme Court held that the matter did not fall into the jurisdiction of the rabbinical court.

In 1998, the divorced husband approached the rabbinical court in Haifa, asking to reduce the alimony he had to pay. A month later, he submitted, within this proceeding, two motions, one of them for the rabbinical court to issue an order prohibiting the divorced wife from bringing her lesbian lover in the house or have any contact with the children in any form or place.

The rabbinical court asked the divorced husband to explain how it could have jurisdiction to hear the request for alimony reduction, as the couple's divorce was already final.

However, regarding the request concerning the lesbian relationship, it held: "Since the mother is conducting a love affair with her [female] neighbor, her companion, in her home in the children's presence, this behavior is immoral and is severely detrimental to the children's education and souls..we are issuing an order prohibiting the mother to have her children meet her
lover Mrs... [petitioner 2]".

Petitioner then appealed to the high rabbinical court, which upheld the lower rabbinical court's holding. The rabbinical court added that it's ruling is correct since the relationship will be detrimental to the education of the children "and this is clear to any one with a mind, and needs no explanation".

The court added that the rabbinical court had th authority to issue the order based on the clause in the divorce agreement that included the woman's obligation not to bring in a strange man she is not married to into the house. The court said that the purpose of the clause is clearly to protect the children's soul from seeing their mother live with a man she is not married to according to Jewish law, and thus the same clearly applies if the children will meet the mother's lover.

The petitioners then filed their petition with the Supreme Court to review the rabbinical court's decision for exceeding jurisdiction or for illegality. They argued the court acted ultra vires, as the couple was already divorced and thus it was not a matter of marriage and divorce, nor was it linked to the divorce case.

The Supreme Court's hearing focused on the issue of jurisdiction. The Attorney General appeared before the Court at the Court's request, and expressed his position that the rabbinical court acted ultra vires.

The Supreme Court agreed and held that if the main suit (for alimony) brought before the rabbinical court was not within its jurisdiction, then the request concerning the children also was not within the jurisdiction.

Saturday, April 21, 2001

Single employees want equal flextime and more firms granting parity

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that two years ago, Myles Romero, a customer service manager for Ford Motor Co., who is single and does not have children wanted to rearrange his work life to make more time to teach aerobics, renovate old houses and pursue an MBA.

Looking enviously at the flexible schedules arranged by many parents at Ford, he suggested to his managers, that single people demands should not be treated any differently than the demands of people who happen to have kids. Afraid to losing him, his supervisor asked him to propose a plan.

Today, the 40-hour, four-day-a-week work arrangement Romero proposed is a standard flextime option at Ford. And the company has stopped asking employees to provide reasons for flextime requests. Taking time off for pottery classes is as valid a reason as caring for a child.

Three decades after mothers with small children began entering the workforce in large numbers, struggling to win workplace benefits and the flexibility to help them balance the demands of job and home, Romero and other childless workers nationwide have begun pressing companies for similar breaks.

In part, employers are responding to increasingly vocal nonparents of all ages who say they've had enough of America's obsession with families. Helped by a competitive labor market, these workers have persuaded employers to give them the same attention they see showered on working parents.

"The trend we're seeing is a definite targeting of work-life benefits" for each worker, said Richard Federico of Segal Co., a human resources consulting company in New York. "Those benefits aren't likely to disappear," he said, even as the economy slows.

The changes in the corporate world have taken place against the backdrop of a larger cultural war: A growing segment of the population calling itself "child free," or childless by choice, has taken on child-doting parents. The child-free forces argue that society needs to stop handing out perks to people simply because they're parents.

Many were galvanized into action last year by journalist Elinor Burkett, author of the controversial book "The Baby Boon," in which she argued that childless adults are unfairly shouldering the burden of paying for expensive goodies that flow mostly to middle-class parents.

The child-free's list of resentments is long: tax benefits for parents, health insurance coverage of infertility treatments, family-discount packages at resorts, co-workers who skip out of the office early to coach soccer games, even those signs reserving prime parking spots for expectant mothers or parents with young children.

These days, households without children are a widening majority, outnumbering those with children by about 2 to 1. As the labor market tightened in the 1990s and the cost of replacing workers rose, many companies found they had to accommodate every lifestyle and every phase of life.

In 1997, for example, only 6 percent of employers reported that they offered domestic partner benefits, which extend the same benefits an employee's spouse would receive to an employee's gay or lesbian life partner. Today, 16 percent of companies say they offer these benefits, according to a survey released last week by the Society for Human Resource Management.

More broadly, about 25 percent of companies offer "cafeteria-style" benefits, from which employees can pick from several programs depending on their lifestyles, up from 21 percent in 1997, the survey found.

Two years ago at Prudential, for instance, the company allowed one department to test a flexible schedule after the manager complained that his staff of highly valued tax experts was getting picked off by competitors.

Benefits such as subsidized day care meant little to these employees, most of whom were in their twenties, so Prudential let them come up with their own incentives.

The employees created a new schedule, with a compressed workweek and a rotating day off. The result: less turnover.

Prudential now offers this arrangement company-wide, part of a new benefits program that it began after a survey showed that many employees felt cheated by benefits aimed mostly at parents. The company even reworded its benefits brochures to use phrases like "working mother" sparingly so as not to snub singles and couples who have no children at home.

New Jersey Appeals Court limits lesbian partner's rights after breakup

A report released today by the Associated Press reports that a New Jersey Court of Appeals ruled that keeping a gay relationship secret can limit visitation or custody rights involving children if the relationship breaks up.

In a case involving two lesbian lawyers from northern New Jersey, the court turned down one of the women's request for visitation rights with her former lover's 7-year-old adopted daughter.

The court said the woman, identified in court papers only as "A.F." isn't entitled to a hearing to determine if she is considered a "psychological parent" to the child because there is no evidence the couple ever presented themselves as a family in public or to anyone who knew them.

"Both parties agree that defendant hid the romantic aspect of their relationship from family and friends, maintaining the appearance of a close, platonic friendship," the court said in a ruling. "If the parties did not hold themselves out to the world at large as a family, how then can a court conclude that plaintiff lived with defendant's child as part of a family unit?"

The ruling came a year after a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that granted lesbian partners visitation rights with the children of a former lover.

The appeals court noted the difference between that case and the one currently at issue. In the earlier case, the couple had been "married" in a civil commitment ceremony and presented themselves as a family to the world.

In the case decided Friday, the court noted that the women never lived together. A.F. lived in Union County, while the defendant, identified as "D.L.P." lived in Bergen County. The court recognized that A.F. had a role in the child's life, but likened it to that of a "nanny or baby sitter."

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Entertainment and publishing industry courts attention of single women

A story published by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that from Helen Gurley Brown's "Sex and the Single Girl" in the mid-'60s to HBO's show "Sex and the City", the world has devoured tales of unmarried women like exotic fruit.

The intrigue continues with the new Miramax film, "Bridget Jones's Diary", based on the most popular of the recent single-gal books. The comic character of Bridget is the brainchild of Helen Fielding, who started the "Diary" as a newspaper column in the London Independent.

The latest tidal wave of books  also runs the range from fact and fiction, including Meghan Daum's memoir, "My Misspent Youth";"Unzipped,"Courtney Weaver's candid soiree into the sex lives of four San Francisco women, first published as a serial on Salon.com; and Melissa Banks' novel, "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing," which also will be made into a film soon.

"Entertainment about single women is always going to be popular with women. We like hearing about others because then we don't feel like we're the only ones feeling crazy and confused.", said Laura Zigman's author of "Animal Husbandry" which 20th Century Fox  picked up and retitled in big screen as "Someone Like You."

Weaver adds, "I think there are more books and movies and shows about single women because there are so many more of us out there."

A new census reports that there are currently 43 million single women in the United States. Roughly 40 percent of all American women are not married. That's compared with 30 percent in 1960. This translates to a lot of women staying single longer, making a life independent of men, having increased earning power and being avid consumers.

No wonder a recent study by the advertising firm Young & Rubicam cited adult single females as the target group at which retailers aim their advertising arrows.

"It's a grass-is-greener kind of thing," Zigman says. "I think there has always been curiosity about the single-woman lifestyle, because it's a big unknown."

Recent portrayals, however, drew fire from feminists who take umbrage at the too-flawed anti-heroines who routinely sacrifice dignity in the pursuit of men.

"I had a hard time with that debate," Zigman says. "They really came at me and said - what does this mean? But I think it's natural to have those dueling desires: to be independent and to be in a

Anyway, I think more women identify with a Bridget Jones than a superwoman."

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Illinois lawmaker proposes premarital counseling bill

A story published today in The Maneater, a campus publication at the University of   Missouri reports that the Illinois Senate passed a bill on April 5 requiring applicants for marriage licenses to first attend four hours of marriage counseling. If the couple does not attend, the bill states they would have to wait 60 days before receiving a marriage license.

Illinois state Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, sponsored the bill.

Toby Trimmer, a spokesman for Cullerton, said he was optimistic that the bill would pass in the Illinois House and could significantly benefit families.

"The goal here is to reduce the divorce rate," Trimmer said.

He said the high divorce rate, around 47 percent in Illinois, also affects children and can lead to additional problems like declining academic performance.

Trimmer said people who participated in the voluntary Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, had a 32 percent less chance of getting a divorce than people who didn't undergo counseling.

Missouri Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said he doubts any similar bill would be enacted in Missouri.

"We've had similar legislation proposed," Graham said. "That didn't really go anywhere. You'll tend to find a more conservative strand in the state."

"I don't think four hours of counseling is a cure-all to all of the problems
you'll find in marriage," he said.

Counseling before marriage can significantly help couples because most problems are minor communication issues, said Greg Boyt, coordinator of the DRD Columbia Medical Clinic.

However, Boyt said he was unsure if the law would play a role in curbing the rising divorce rate because people might not take the counseling seriously.

"I think there's going to be a percentage of the population that will perceive it as being forced into counseling," he said.

If the Illinois House approves the bill, it would be up to Republican Gov. George Ryan to decide whether to sign the bill into law.

 "We have a lot a bipartisan support," Trimmer said. "I think it's going to provide us with some good opportunities."

Unwed births remain constant while teen birth rates drop

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that one-third of all births in the nation are attributed to unmarried women. Teen births on the other have dropped to a record low. The story is based on a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics Tuesday.

The study reports that birth rates for unmarried women increased slightly to 44.4 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44. One out of every three births in the U.S. was to an unmarried women.

The birth rate for mothers 15 to 19 declined 3 percent to 49.6 births per 1,000 women in 1999 from the previous year. This rate has fallen 20 percent since 1991 and is now at a record low.

``Teen sexual activity has leveled off compared to the increases we saw in the previous couple of decades,'' commented demographer Stephanie Ventura.

``Also, teens who are sexually active are more likely to be using contraception,'' she said. ``Every state has a teen pregnancy prevention program. ... The message has been transmitted.''

The 1999 rate broke a record of 50.2 births per 1,000 teen-age women set in 1986. The records go back to 1940.

 The new report, ``Births: Final Data for 1999,''  also found:

 -- Birth rates for women in their thirties increased 2 to 3 percent  between 1998 and 1999, and are at their highest level in more than three decades. The birth rate for women aged 40-44 also increased in 1999.

 -- The median age for first-time mothers increased to 24.5 years, continuing a slow but steady rise since 1972.

 -- Total births in the U.S. increased to 3,959,417 in 1999, up less than 1 percent from 1998.

Monday, April 16, 2001

Colombia High Court bars schools from expelling students based on sexual conduct

A story released today by EFE News reports that Colombia's Constitutional Court has ordered schools to eliminate rules on sexual behavior from their codes of conduct, officials said.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by a high-school student who was expelled for getting pregnant and living with her boyfriend. The target of the suit was the San Luis Beltran school in the city of Manati, in northern Colombia.

The student was publicly expelled after classmates complained of inconsistent enforcement of the code of conduct.

The high court's ruling will now force schools throughout the country to no longer consider extramarital sex, abortion, prostitution or homosexuality disciplinary violations.


Saturday, April 14, 2001

Unmarried British soldiers to get private rooms

A story published by the BBC News on March 14, 2001, reports that the British Ministry of Defense will begin phasing out the old-style army barrack dormitories because newer recruits no longer find it acceptable to share a room.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced a £200m-a-year improvement program for the forces' unmarried quarters accommodation, which aims to eventually offer all single service personnel their own room.

Defense officials have admitted that the step was being driven by the need to retain a different generation of recruits who wanted greater privacy.

"In the 21st century people are increasingly expecting their own rooms with decent facilities," one source said.

The three British services have historically taken different views on unmarried accommodation, with recruits to the RAF the most likely to get a room of their own.

But the Army has traditionally regarded dormitories as good for building team spirit, and most unmarried private soldiers still live in shared accommodation with four to a room.

The Defense Ministry says the aim is for all single personnel, apart from new trainees, to get their own accommodation with a shower.

However, officials have acknowledged the program could take10 years to complete.

The new investment will initially have to go into improving the poor state of much of the existing unmarried accommodation.

Mr. Hoon, addressing building contractors in London, said that some barracks accommodation, was "frankly appalling".

"Some of it is simply unacceptable. Its condition is positively damaging to operational effectiveness, to retaining service men and women, and to the day-to-day efficiency of defense.

"And we know it is getting worse," he said.

Friday, April 13, 2001

Philadelphia Inquirer gives AASP the last word on new census study

A story published by the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a government study this week confirmed a trend that may confound the family-values debate: More children lived in the traditional two-parent family in the 1990s, but more also lived with adults who were not married.

Statistics from a 1996 Census Bureau survey, combined with more recent surveys, show increasing diversity in living arrangements for the nation's children, from high immigration to changing divorce rates to the strong economy.

"It's not any one thing," said Jason Fields, author of the report released this week, based on a survey, not the 2000 census.

"We're seeing that the nuclear family has increased in recent years. But we're also seeing a rise in unmarried cohabitation."

The study found that between 1991 and 1996, the share of children living with both of their biological, married parents and any full biological siblings rose from 51 percent to 56 percent of all children.

At the same time, the study, along with more recent surveys, indicates that the number of children living with unmarried adults rose slightly.

The exact percentage change in cohabitation is unclear because the figures came from different surveys. The newly released 1996 survey, considered the most comprehensive, found that 5 percent of children that year (3.3 million) were living with adults who were not married, at least one of whom was a
biological parent.

"It is now more common for people to cohabitate not only before they get married, but also after a marriage ends," said Lynn Casper, a researcher on children's development at the National Institutes of Health.

Casper offered several reasons for the trend, including the possibility that more divorced parents were moving in with their new partners but not marrying them.

The study of 71.5 million children in 1996 also found:

                     About 17 percent of all children, and 57 percent of black children, lived with an unmarried parent in 1996, some of whom were cohabitating with another adult.

                     About 71 percent of children lived in any type of two-parent household, 25 percent lived in single-parent households, and 4 percent in households with some other adult, such as a grandparent.

                     Less than 1 percent (5.2 million) were living with one biological parent and either a stepparent or adoptive parent.

                     About 21 percent (15.3 million) had no brothers or sisters present in the house. Among the 79 percent with siblings, about 11 percent shared one biological parent but not the other.

Experts also differed on the reasons for the trends in cohabitation and traditional families, and particularly whether a child is better off living with two unmarried adults or with a single parent.

Fields also said a bigger number of immigrants in the 1990s, who tend to cling to their families upon arrival, may have pushed up the numbers. He also noted a general increase, from the 1980s to 1990s, in the fertility rates among women in their 30s.

Attitudes also may be changing about the value of staying in the traditional nuclear family, which had been steadily breaking up since the 1950s.

Susan Orr, a specialist in family trends at the conservative, pro-marriage Family Research Council, based in Washington, said the trend showed more people were questioning the notion that children were best served by having their unhappy parents get divorced.

"I think there is . . . an increasingly open and public discussion that divorce is bad and marriage is good for children and adults," Orr said. "More mothers and fathers staying together with their children is a good thing."

Asked about more parents living unmarried, Orr said: "Let's help them get married. If this is a real family unit, let's formalize it. If there are barriers we've put in their place, let's remove them."

Gregory Asc, a senior research associate at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, noted that the trend away from single-person parenting might not always be good.

"Bringing an [unmarried] man into the house may be a mixed blessing," Asc said. "There is some evidence that having a boyfriend around is worse."

Advocates for unmarried people, however, sharply criticized the study's contention that the nuclear family has rebounded, pointing out that the number of married-with-children households is still down dramatically from the1950s and 1960s.

"Unmarried America keeps growing," said Thomas F. Coleman, director of the California-based American Association for Single People. "More and more children are living with unmarried adults, more are being raised by grandparents, and the reality is family diversity."

Census says American's families are more traditional; AASP says it isn't so

A story released by the Associated Press reports that the prototypical nuclear family of black and white TV -- where mom, dad and their biological children all live together -- may not be as endangered as it sometimes seems. The percent of children living in such traditional families rose during the early 1990s, from 51 percent in 1991 to 56 percent in 1996.

At the same time, other families became increasingly complex, with more stepparents, grandparents and adoptive parents raising children, the Census Bureau says in a report released Friday.

The new data examined 71.5 million children living in the United States in fall 1996.

The report, based on a survey of 37,000 households, both rejects and builds upon common perceptions of increasingly diversified families.

``It's not entirely a clear picture,'' said the Census Bureau's Jason Fields, the report's author.

Most unexpected may be the rise in the proportion of children living in ``nuclear families'' -- where the children live with their biological mother and father and no one else.

In addition, births to teen-agers and to unmarried older women have fallen, helping to slow a three-decade climb in the number of children living with single parents. Still, one in three babies is born to unmarried parents.

But the proportion of children living in any sort of two-parent family -- including nuclear families as well as those with stepparents and other arrangements -- continued to fall, from 73 percent in 1991 to 71 percent in 1996.

The report found that all sorts of non-traditional families are becoming more common. Specifically, in fall 1996:

 --Single parents: About one in four children lived with a single parent, up slightly from 1991. Nine times out of 10, they were living with their mother. Still, 1.8 million children lived with their single fathers.

About 3.3 million children were living with a single parent and another adult. In nearly half these cases, the other adult was the child's other parent, but the couple was not married.

 --Blended families: About 16.5 percent of children live in a family recreated due to remarriage, with stepparents, stepsiblings or half-siblings. That compares with about 15 percent in 1991.

 --Adopted children: About 1.5 million children were living with adoptive parents, but only about half of those were living with two adoptive parents. In most other cases, stepparents had adopted the biological children of their new spouses.

 --Multi-generational: Some 5.9 percent of children lived in a home with at least three generations, usually because a grandparent was present.That is up slightly from 5.7 percent in 1991.

 --Other relatives: 14 percent of children, or 10.3 million, were living in ``extended families,'' where the household includes at least one person outside the nuclear family. In 1991, it was 12.5 percent.

Children living with just one parent were four times as likely to live in extended families as others, as single parents look for others to share resources and provide extra support.

Children in racial minority groups were more than twice as likely than white children to live in extended families, the report said. In some cases, that is because new family members immigrated to this country and moved in with relatives.

Not mentioned in the AP article is a press release issued by the American Association for Single People which criticized the press release used by the Census Bureau to announce the new report.  That release claimed "traditional nuclear family" on the "rebound," which AASP says is a distortion of facts.

Census data find the percentage of children living with biological parents increasing to 56 percent

A story released today in the Christian Science Monitor reports that between 1991 and 1996, the percentage of American children living with both their biological parents jumped from 51 percent to 56 percent, according to a report released today by the US Census Bureau. The finding, which surprised many researchers, suggests that family relations in the United States may be entering a new era of stability after two decades of tumultuous change.

"It's the single most hopeful finding that I've heard from the Census Bureau in years," says David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a New York think tank devoted to issues of family and civil society.

"It's unexpected," adds Andrew Cherlin, professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Increases in family stability are always good news."

Rather than a return to the Ozzie and Harriet days of the 1950s, the new report suggests that changes in family structure are leveling off. For example, in 1990, single mothers were raising 22 percent of the nation's children; by 1996, that share had risen slightly to 23 percent.

This indicates that diverse forms of parenting - from adoption to stepparents - remained prevalent during the mid-1990s. "Although we may see a stabilization of and even a slight rise in the married-parent nuclear families, it's not enough [of a change] that we can afford to ignore these other families," says Stephanie Coontz, cochair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit group of researchers based in New York.

Researchers attribute the reemergence of nuclear families to many factors. For one thing, the divorce rate has fallen from its peak around 1980, when there were 5.2 divorces for every 1,000 people; by 1999, the rate had dropped to 4.1.

Also, out-of-wedlock births are leveling off. In 1970, roughly 1 out of 10 births involved unmarried mothers. Although the rate surged to 1 out of 3 in 1994, it has since stayed virtually level.

But family experts caution that the rebound of nuclear families, while real, could be exaggerated by other factors. The economy, for example, may have played a role. Between 1991 and 1996, families' average financial situations improved significantly. Typically, such improvements reduce the number of divorces. By one estimate, every one percentage point gain in the unemployment rate generates some 10,000 extra divorces.

In any case, the rise of nuclear families report tends to be good news for children, researchers say.

Despite the rise in the nuclear family, some 44 percent of children still live in other family arrangements. "There's a tremendous diversity in the living arrangements of kids," says Jason Fields, family demographer with the US Census Bureau and author of the new report.

A quarter of all children lived in single-parent households. And 4 percent lived with neither parent. Roughly three-quarters of that last group lived with grandparents or another relative.

The portion of children in various living arrangements changes dramatically depending on race and ethnicity. For example, while 84 percent of Asian (and other Pacific Island) children and 79 percent of non-Hispanic whites lived with two parents, only 38 percent of black children did. Just over half of black children lived in mother-only households, twice the share of Hispanic children who did.

"That certainly says something about the economic resources that these children have access to," says Mr. Fields. Usually, one-parent households are poorer than two-parent homes.

The number of adopted children stood at 1.5 million in 1996, up from 1.1 million in 1991. Nearly half lived with two adoptive parents; another third lived with one biological parent and an adoptive parent.

As late as 1970, 85 percent of children lived in two-parent homes, 11 percent in mother-only homes, 1 percent in father-only homes, and 3 percent with neither parent.

Then in the next two decades, the number of divorces and single-parent households dramatically increased. By 1990, 22 percent of all children lived in mother-only homes. The nuclear family seemed under attack - a notion that may fade if the new trend holds up.

"There was a sense of inevitability about the disintegration of the two-parent child-rearing household," says Mr. Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values. "If nothing else, this shows there's nothing inevitable about the trend."

European countries modify traditional laws

A story published today in the International Herald Tribune reports that Netherlands which prides itself of being in the forefront of social reform, pushed beyond its European partners again with the celebration of three homosexual marriages under a new law at Amsterdam City Hall.

Dutch statistics show that 10 percent of established couples in the country are homosexual. It is now legally possible for same-sex couples to marry which bring all the rights of marriage from health and insurance benefits to inheritance.

The trend is not much different in other European countries, where traditional laws on personal status are being revised. France for example, has established a new legal contract known as PACS, which is not a formal marriage but provides for property and maintenance benefits of a spouse. It is available not only to homosexuals but also for opposite-sex partners.

The changes in family law which are being promoted in most European countries despite strong objections from the churches are advanced as needed adaptations to modern circumstances in order to strengthen the family.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany wrote in a recent article titled "Family, Progress, Happiness,"  said that for more than a century gloom-sayers have been predicting the death of the family, but it remains a vital, lively institution by supple forms of redefinition. "Traditional family," he said, refers to the immediate post-war period in Europe "when women were expected to stay home and have babies, divorce was stigmatized, single mothers were penalized and children born outside marriage had no rights." Mr. Schroeder pointed out with pride that 85 percent of German children under the age of 16 lived with two parents, an impressive rebuttal to the argument that the family has collapsed.

Reinforcing the family used to be considered the monopoly of conservatives, but Mr. Schroeder said his socialist coalition government was determined to do all it could to support family life- advocating flexible working hours, providing for child care, enabling men to share parental duties more equitably, but ensuring that women have full and equal opportunities for jobs and careers.

In a similar surge of redefinition of old assumptions, France is also working on a far-reaching change in its traditional laws. Ministers Ségolène Royal for family and children's affairs and Marylise Lebranchu for justice, have passed proposals that would reflect the general opinion in proclaiming that the law must be brought up to date with society.

Divorce for guilt will be wiped out. When there is no contention between the parties, it won't even be necessary to have a formal court hearing to register divorce. There is no longer to be any legal distinction between children born in or outside wedlock, and acknowledgment of paternity conveys the rights of any father.

These are dramatic social changes, particularly for a country like France which always had so much pride in historic family origins and name.

The impact of these forms of evolution of European society is hard to foresee, but they certainly show that Europeans are not traditionalist stuck in the past.

Thursday, April 12, 2001

Hollywood, stop depicting single women as desperate and lonely

A story published today in The Christian Science Monitor reports that the growth in the ranks of single women in recent decades has created a new cultural phenomenon. Today, some 40 percent of all adult women are single.

In Tinseltown and on bookstores, the media is beginning to present more nuanced portrayals of these women - from the self-sufficiency in "That's Life" a CBS sitcom, to the candidness of "Bridget Jones's Diary," which opens in theaters tomorrow.

Adding to the fuel is a grass-roots explosion of novels and newsletters, photo exhibits and websites dedicated to a more faithful presentation of single women, whose experiences differ dramatically from those of their mothers and grandmothers.

"There's no script for them [to] follow or borrow from an earlier generation of women," says Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. "They're defining this stage of life as they go through it."

Despite the popularity of tv shows like "Ally McBeal" and "Sex in the City," single women say they feel they are often a transparent part of society, considered neither complete nor financially viable.

"We're seen as people-in-waiting," says Lorie Johnson, a single woman in Little Rock, Ark., who is about to buy her own home. "The idea that we could be happy and content with our lives and escape the marriage-go-round seems to escape [people]."

Part of the problem is that society is still figuring out what to do with women who aren't following the traditional married-with-children pattern.

About 43 million women - or 40 percent of the adult female population -are over 18 and single, according to 1998 census figures. Thirty years ago, that number was about 30 percent.

More men are single, too, but the percentages of unmarried women ages 25 to 29, and 30 to 34 have roughly tripled between 1970 and 1998. The median age of marriage for women has also gone up -from about 20 in 1960 to 25 in 1998.

A Young and Rubicam study from last summer also suggests that marketers who ignore single women suffer at their own peril. Their study noted that single women are more frequently buying cars and houses and taking vacations on their own, a contrast to the unfulfilled types the media often makes them out to be.

"Happily married is something people have an image of. But there is no shared cultural image of being happily single," says Professor Potuchek.

During research for her coming book about changing relationship patterns, Dr. Whitehead has counted some 20 novels that women, mostly in their 30s, have written in the last decade.

Laura Zigman is on Whitehead's list. Ms. Zigman's best-selling novel "Animal Husbandry" was the basis for "Someone Like You" starring Ashley Judd as a TV booking agent who goes through a breakup. She felt that there was a lack of literature that talked about being heartbroken -aside from Madame Bovary and cheesy self-help books, Zigman says. "It mirrored what happens to a lot of women where there is a big gap between relationships."

One thing that might comfort younger single women to feel more secure in their singleness is more images of older single women, says Kay Trimberger, a professor of women's and gender studies at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.  Trimberger is a member of the American Association for Single People.

"In your late 20s and early 30s," it's harder to be single "because you're more subject to societal and marriage pressures," she says. "Whereas older single women have created lives for themselves," including strong family ties and circles of friends wider than even married women have.

CBS's "Judging Amy," has a good example of that. Amy's mother is single, and a social worker. Amy herself is a judge and single mother -more than a stereotype.

"It's a great example," says Potuchek, "It can include romance, but its not about it."

Even more telling may be that the people behind Harlequin romances are coming out with a new line of books in November. They will focus on the coming-of-age experiences of single women.

"More than anything, these books are supposed to reflect real life situations. They're hopeful but not fantasy based," says Margaret Marbury, editor of the new imprint Red Dress Ink. "These aren't exclusively the search for Mr. Maybe, but a single woman's pursuit of happiness, whatever that may be."

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Campus child care helps single-parent students stay in school

A story published today by USA Today reports that an increasing demand for childcare on college campuses has prodded Congress to approve a fivefold increase in this year's funding for a program that helps provide child care for single-parents and other low-income student parents to gain an education
and escape poverty.

The budget for Child Care Access Means Parents In Schools (CCAMPIS) was increased to $25 million from $5 million in fiscal 2000.

The 3-year-old program, which supported child-care centers at 87 colleges and universities its first two years, can now spread to perhaps 300 more campuses this year.

Under the Bush administration, however, program funding is uncertain. And even this year's larger amount just scratches the surface.

Campus child-care programs meet an estimated one-quarter of the needs of student parents, says Todd Boressoff, public policy chairman of the National Coalition for Campus Children's Centers. Of the nation's 3,000 two- and four-year colleges and universities, some 2,300 offer child care.

''Most don't begin to serve the need on campus,'' says Boressoff. With a college degree now almost required for a good wage, and more older students enrolling, demand will continue.

A projection from the Education department states that this year alone, 21% of the country's 15,361 undergraduate and graduate students are 35 or older, and more than two-thirds of the older group are women. The number of those older students has soared 124% since 1980.

Ten percent of undergraduates in the 1995-96 school year were single parents, the latest Department of Education statistics show. Factoring in gender, age or race, the percentage of single-parent undergraduates was higher -- 13% of women, 18% of students ages 25 to 34, and 32% of black women.

In a 1987-88 survey of student parents at State University of New York community colleges with child care, 60% said college wouldn't be possible without child care; 86% of the student parents using child care stayed in school or completed their degree, much higher than the 60% success rate for the total student population.

Low-income students easily got help with child-care costs before the federal government overhauled welfare in 1996. Under the old system, recipients could attend college and get federal subsidies for child care.

Now, states focus more child-care subsidies on parents who work, rather than parents in school.

To meet the need of student parents,Boressoff's group and advocates such as the Children's Defense Fund pushed for CCAMPIS, which Congress created in 1998. Under the program, the Department of Education distributes four-year grants to college child-care centers where more than half of student clients are low-income. The money doesn't pay students' costs, but the centers can use it in other helpful ways.

For example, the University of South Dakota used its $129,000 grant to start a program for infants and toddlers, child-care coordinator Merle Eintracht says.

Congress gave the CCAMPIS program $5 million each of its first two years, then jumped to $25 million for 2001. Boressoff says for 2002, he will ask Congress to give it the full $45 million the law authorizes.

But, says Becky Timmons of the American Council on Education, ''It's not clear that (CCAMPIS) is going to have any support from the (Bush) White House.''

Massachusetts activists  file suit over the right to marry

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that seven gay and lesbian couples in Springfield, Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking the state to lift its prohibition of same-sex marriages.

"We've conducted ourselves as a married couple since 1991," said Heidi Norton, of Northampton, who is suing with her partner, Gina Smith.

Still, Norton said they run into problems daily that other couples with children would not. "Every place we go we have to make an extra effort," she said.

The right to marry would provide the couples more protection than laws specifically designed to recognize same-sex unions, said Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a New England group that is financing the lawsuit.

"It's the simplest solution," Bonauto said. "Everyone knows what marriage means."

The women appeared at a morning news conference to publicize the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston where most of the plaintiffs live.

The suit is seeking the court to force the state Department of Public Health, which regulates marriage certificates, to lift its prohibition against same-sex marriages.

"We simply have no authority to register a union that under the statute is illegal," said Roseanne Pawelic, a spokesperson for the Health Department.

"In 1989 the state's anti-discrimination laws were amended and in that amendment the Legislature explicitly said 'nothing in this Act ...legitimizes or validates a homosexual marriage,'" Pawelic said.

In 1999 the state Supreme Judicial Court rejected an attempt by the city of Boston to provide health insurance coverage to  gay partners of city workers finding it was up to the Legislature to change the existing law on the books.

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Survey reports more people are having premarital sex

A story published today by the Badger Herald, a campus newspaper at the University of Wisconsin, reports that a recent national survey conducted by Adam & Eve, a large mail-order erotica distributor, revealed that 70 percent of Americans had their first sexual intercourse before marriage. Only 26 percent reported saving their virginity for their wedding night.

University Health Services associate director Scott J. Spear confirmed the results, and contended that young adults are engaged in irrational decision-making based on meaningful relationships when deciding to have sex for the first time.

Adam & Eve spokesperson Katy Zvolerin noted that society is getting away from marriage as the primary factor in deciding to be sexually active.

"While the institution of marriage is sacred to many people, it appears that the modern sexual attitudes have generally surpassed the old notion of abstaining from sex until marriage," she said. "This doesn't mean we've become a 'loose' society with no moral standards. It simply means more and more people are exploring healthy sexual relationships before settling down with their life partners."

The survey also added that 80 percent of men reported having premarital sex, while 62 percent of women admitted to the same.

Spear contended that this gender gap may linked to a social double standard that affects how people answer these types of survey questions. Because sexually active women are perceived by many as "easy," while  men are considered "experienced," these findings may be flawed.

"Men may be over-reporting and women may be under-reporting," Spear said.

Additionally, among adults 50 or older, only 58 percent said they had intercourse before marriage. The same survey reveals that 78 percent adults under the age of 50 said they had engaged in premarital sex.

"I don't think that having premarital sex means I've sacrificed my morals," said Kimberly Hauser a student  interviewed in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "I knew that I was ready, and that there was a good chance I would marry this guy someday, so why wait four years to finish
college, get married and then have sex?"

For Hauser and many other students, the presence of a meaningful relationship can be the most important criteria in deciding to have sex before marriage.

However, 26 percent of Americans, including UW freshman Nate Bach, plan to wait.

"Personally, I am going to wait, but that doesn't mean I hold anyone to any standards," he said.

States adopt covenant marriages to curb divorces

A story published today by  USA Today reports that Arkansas becomes the third state to offer covenant marriages -specialized, voluntary agreements making divorces tougher to get.

Officials in the office of Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, say that the governor is also expected to sign a similar bill  that gives couples a break on marriage license fees if they take a marriage education course. Florida has also enacted a similar law.

The developments are the latest in a growing trend. States are trying to reduce the divorce rate to help protect children, who do best in intact families.

The movement sends a powerful message, says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. "Momentum is building.Grown-ups out there are saying marriage is something we should take a stand on. We feel strongly enough to pass a law. We have to value this institution before we lose it."

Arkansas' covenant marriage law voluntarily pledges couples to marry for life and to get marital counseling if they face marital  difficulties. Divorces will only be granted in special cases, including adultery, committing of a felony, or physical or sexual abuse.

Arkansas has the nation's second-highest divorce rate, says Chris Pyle, family policy director for Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee. "The governor is a former Southern Baptist minister. He has made marriage an important priority in his administration."

Louisiana and Arizona have passed their own versions of covenant marriage laws, while there is similar activity in Texas and Iowa, says John Crouch, a divorce lawyer who runs Americans for Divorce Reform. The group tracks and advocates change in divorce laws. "I think we are looking at very slow, but long-term, change."

Last year, the governor of Maryland vetoed a marriage education bill, saying it didn't specify who would administer premarital education courses that would be offered in exchange for discounted marriage fees.

Rep. John Leopold, one of the bills sponsor's, revised the previous bill detailing a list of professionals who can offer the courses, which must last at least four hours. "We have met the governor's objections," he says.

"Policymakers have to deal honestly with these issues. Studies show where there is a nurturing environment with a husband and wife, children have a much better chance for success," Leopold says.

Critics of this movement however, are skeptical. "Much marriage education legislation seems like window dressing to me," says Don Bloch, past president of the American Family Therapy Academy. "I don't know about a four-hour course. It seems like political flimflam by people who appeal to our desire to do something about marriage."

Monday, April 9, 2001

Injunction hearings: 'poor man's divorce' for unmarried couples

A story published today in the Daytona Beach News Journal reports that domestic violence injunction cases involving unmarried couples, allegations of violence are often set aside while the hearings turn, in the words of County Judge Peter Marshall, into "a poor man's divorce court."

"That's where you see a lot of times where they race each other down to the courthouse trying to get possession of the home or kids," Marshall says.

According to family law attorney Rick Brown, "at the domestic violence hearing, what usually happens is the subject switches from domestic violence to custody. A lot of them end up being lengthy custody hearings."

Petitioners seek immediate child support payments, sole possession of a shared home and custody of the couple's children.

That might not be a bad thing, says Circuit Judge John Doyle. By formally splitting up an unmarried couple, judges help remove the pressures that create the potential for abuse, he says.

While some judges do not share the same view, Doyle sees the injunction process as a medium through which unmarried couples pass enroute to resolving disputes.

He says that the process has significantly reduced repeated incidents of violence among separating couples.

A majority of couples who come to his courtroom are high school dropouts, between 18 and 30 years of age, work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs and have"terrible" job histories, he says.

An allegation of domestic violence "basically triggers our jurisdiction to intercede in this dispute," he says. "I ask up front if everybody understands that we are here today to break up.' "

As in a divorce proceeding, Doyle spends a lot of time on custody issues, and splitting household furnishings.

"I do almost everything I do in a divorce," he says. "If I don't, they get in a big fight later on, and that defeats the purpose of them coming to see me."

In the hearings, "we make a list of issues to focus attention on -- what we're really there to talk about. The issue with (the man) is his stuff. He wants his stuff."

Often, the hearing is the first time the man learns he is being dumped, Doyle says.

"The woman may want to break up with the guy but can't figure out a way to tell him for fear he will explode," he says. "He doesn't know, and a lot of times you can see the guy react visibly when that comes out."

Young adults are turning to sexual abstinence

A story published today in the Birmingham Post Herald reports that a small percent of adults in their 20s and 30s are abstaining from sex.

Some are religious people who say they want to do right by God. Others fear HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Some have had failed relationships and are tired of loveless romping. Others are virgins - an unusual status since most Americans have sex by the time they are 17, according to University of Chicago research - and are waiting to fall in love with a lifelong partner.

"The pendulum is swinging in the other direction," said Dee Dee Fix, a program educator for Worth the Wait, a sexual education program based in Texas that develops programs and curriculum on sexual abstinence.

Fix said people who have become adults within the past decade have seen how casual sexual relationships have affected them or their friends.

Fear of STDs, date rape and divorce are also influencing young adults to keep their hormones at bay, Fix says.

"People are starting to recognize the severity of STDs especially," Fix said. "They are saying, 'This is something that can harm me in the long run.'"

Edward O. Laumann, one of the authors of "Sex in America: A Definitive Study," says it's hard to believe that many people are abstaining from sex voluntarily - meaning they have other physical, mental or emotional issues preventing them from participating in sex.

Anecdotal evidence shows that people are more accepting of premarital sex, Laumann says, which suggests sexual abstinence isn't as critical as it used to be. Only about 2 percent of the population has not engaged in sex by age 30, and that number includes those under constraint not to, such as priests, nuns and disabled people, Laumann says.

But sexual morality is making news, Laumann adds. "People not having sex is newsworthy because it's rare and unusual, and that attracts attention,"Laumann says.

For some, their own realization of how sex did not add anything significant to their relationship is enough to drive them towards sexual abstinence.

Alves, a Christian, said she had hoped that sex would fix a lot of the other problems that had surfaced in their relationship, including her boyfriend's alleged drug use and her feelings of distrust towards him.

The sex continued, but troubles with their relationship did not disappear. They broke up countless times, she remembers. But Alves always returned to him.

A few years into their marriage, Alves said, she realized the distrust and the alleged drug use still plagued their relationship, so they divorced.

A year later, Alves credits her religious beliefs for helping her recover from her marriage and subsequent divorce. And she says she has a renewed understanding of sex.

"I truly believe it's God's guideline for me to wait until I am married,"she said. "I know he has my spouse picked out for me."

For Valeria Moreno, the danger of STDs was a big concern. The 20-year-old lost her virginity when she was 15.

"At first, I thought this is what I wanted to do because I wasn't looking for a relationship. I thought I would just have my fun," Moreno said.

But knowing the threat of STDs, she said, influenced her to settle down. A year ago she re-committed to abstinence.

"I want to focus on getting to know someone first," Moreno said."Whenever I got in a sexual relationship it got boring and I wanted to get out of it."

Sunday, April 8, 2001

Study shows that population of single adults in 1996 has double from 1970

A story published in the News Herald reports that there are more than 77 million unmarried Americans - double the number of single people documented in 1970 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The government agency reported in 1996 that those 77 million people represented 40 percent of the adult population. In 1970, about 28 percent of Americans were unmarried.

"The reality is that marriage is now the interlude and singlehood the state of affairs," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead co-director of The National Marriage Project of  Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Whitehead said women, specifically, spend less time married than they do single before marriage, as widows or as divorcées. Part of that time gap results from the fact women live longer than men, she said.

The period of time before marriage is also getting longer.

The census reports in 1955, the median age for women married for the first time was 20.2 years, and for men, 22.6 years. By 1996, those numbers increased to 24.8 years for women and 27.1 years for men.

Whitehead theorized that both genders are completing school, focusing on careers and becoming economically prepared for marriage before taking the plunge.

Whitehead said that a factor that has not been present before is the fear of single young people about divorce even before they get married.

The divorce rate that fluctuates between 43 percent and 50 percent is the symptom of a larger problem, said Steve Lowe, singles pastor with Willoughby Hills Friends Church.

"The bottom line is that we are breeding unhealthy individuals as a whole," Lowe said. "They become self-fulfilling prophecies of their own brokeness."

By not dealing with the original problem, the cycle can repeat itself, Lowe said. Or the adult individual still could be coping with tough issues the same way he did when he or she was a child, instead of dealing with them like an adult.

Another basic level of "dysfunction" is present in society, Lowe said.

People are placing self-gratification above working on their relationships. Today's attitude is "do what feels good to you," he said.

"We've lost touch with the priorities," Lowe said.

Despite increasing numbers of unmarried adults, census figures still show another reality: Many people are married.

In 1998, nearly 111 million Americans were married and living with their spouse.

"Most people still want to be married at some point in their lives," Whitehead said. "But people don't think it's a tragedy to be single, and people don't want to be married to just any old person just for the sake of being married."

Irene Fiala, a sociology professor at the Ashtabula campus of Kent State University, said the same. Ninety percent of the population does marry, she said.

"We are still a marrying society," she said. "We just delay it a little more."

Fiala looks at it from a technical standpoint. She said single people can be categorized in four ways: ambivalents, resolveds, regretfuls and wishfuls.

"Ambivalents" are voluntarily, but temporarily, single and are usually young. "Resolveds" are voluntarily and permanently single. "Regretfuls" are involuntarily and permanently single, "because they kind of missed the boat." "Wishfuls" are involuntarily and  temporarily single. Members of this group could be divorced, Fiala said. Eighty percent of divorced people do re-marry, she said.

Thursday, April 5, 2001

House votes to repeal estate tax

A story published by the Associated Press reports that the House vote to repeal the estate tax capped a legislative blitz  Wednesday when Republican leaders pushed through the major components of President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut.

``It has been a good start,'' said Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Oklahoma. ``We hope the Senate will follow suit.''

Voting 274-154, the House passed a measure that would gradually reduce and then repeal the tax in 2011 at a cost of $185.5 billion. Fifty-eight Democrats joined nearly all House Republicans in favor of the legislation that was similar to a repeal then-President Clinton vetoed last year.

After news of the passage, Bush issued a written statement that called the vote a ``victory for fairness and a vote for economic growth.''

``Today's vote is an important step toward restoring fairness in the tax code by eliminating the double and triple taxation that results from the death tax,'' the president said.

``I look forward to continuing to work with members of Congress from both parties to enact real and meaningful tax relief for the American people.''

At the Senate however, things were moving in the opposite direction when they voted tentatively to divert $450 billion from the president's tax cut to education spending and debt reduction. Republican Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, a leading moderate, said he may oppose the tax cut.

Bush's tax cuts have met little resistance in the House. In March, the House passed Bush's across-the-board income tax cut, estimated at $958 billion, and voted for a $399 billion bill to ease the tax marriage penalty and double the child tax credit.

The Senate, divided evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, has yet to take up any of the bills amid efforts to reduce the total price.

Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the House's quick passage provides momentum, during later negotiations with the Senate, for Bush's biggest domestic priority.

Although each House bill attracted Democratic votes, most Democrats contend that as a whole, the tax relief package jeopardizes national priorities such as education and health care spending and debt reduction, does nothing to guarantee the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, and threatens a return to deficits if projected budget surpluses do not materialize.

``You can break the tax cut into parts, but you cannot break its effect,'' said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. ``This is a mistake that we will pay for for years to come.''

To meet Bush's $1.6 trillion figure, Republicans had to perform a juggling act. The estate tax repeal, for example, reduces tax rates moderately during the first eight years, with most of the cost coming with the full repeal in 2011 -- later than Bush initial proposal.

The tax affects estates of only about 2 percent of people who die each year, mainly because of a $675,000 exemption that will rise to $1 million in 2006. Avoiding the tax, which tops out at 55 percent, will require costly insurance and estate planning, and will cause particular problems for many farmers and small businesses owners who are often forced to sell land or assets.

Democrats say the gradual phaseout conceals the real cost, which they contend would actually exceed $662 billion if the repeal came immediately. They offered an $39 billion alternative that would raise the individual exemption to $2 million right away and eventually to $2.5 million, which they believe would ease the tax burden for all but the wealthiest estates.

``We can do something real for 99.9 percent of the taxpayers,'' said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

But the House defeated the Democratic alternative on a 227-201 vote.

The House-passed bill would make a change in capital gains taxes after the estate tax is repealed. This would alter the way assets are valued for capital gains purposes, in effect increasing that tax when heirs sell the assets. The first $1.3 million in gain would be exempt, $4.3 million if the heir is a surviving spouse.

Mature brides tend to dispense with wedding traditions

A article written by Chantal Tode' entitled "The grownup wedding mature brides are more likely to dispense with tradition" notes that mature brides and grooms of today are more likely to break with a traditional wedding celebrations.

"They are a little clearer about their own style and they bring that sensibility to their wedding," explains Jill Gordon in the article, a Manhattan wedding planner with many older clients.

Gordon's observation is based on the U.S. 2000 Census, which shows that first marriages are happening later in life. While the median age for women was 20.3 in 1950, according to a report posted by the American Association for Single People, it rose to 25 in 1998. Tode' believes that it is surely even later in New York.

Her article goes on to say that not only do older couples tend to have more defined taste, but they usually foot the bill for the festivities - which means that nobody can tell them what to do.

Tode also shares that as an over-35 first-time bride having attended too many cookie-cutter events, she would like to spend her hard-earned money on something so unoriginal. Their main concern with all the wedding plans is that they throw a really great party rather that finding a perfect wedding gown for the event.

According to Gordon, older couples often choose a shorter ceremony, colorful decorations, nontraditional music and "a fun party in celebration of their wedding."

A large wedding party, reception line, sit-down dinner and bouquet toss however is still a main prerequisite that mature couples want to keep. And instead of a giant meringue dress, the bride often chooses a simple gown.

That was not the case for Polly Kreisman, a investigative reporter with WPIX-TV who was 42 when she married. She wore a classic wedding gown with layers of tulle which ended up posing as the only hitch of the day when the top layer got caught and ripped.

But while her dress was old-fashioned, the ceremony was as freewheeling as they come. It took place on a beach in Amagansett, L.I., and the bridesmaids were told to wear anything they liked as long as it matched the ocean. Afterward, the guests piled into a yellow school bus and headed to the reception in a Montauk park.

"We wanted the day to be elegant and simple at the same time," says Kreisman.

Sonia, a 36-year-old professor in Brooklyn, interviewed in the article wanted an intimate wedding. So to keep the numbers down, she only invited her closest friends and family.

"Because I'm older, I think that I was able to make decisions with more confidence and be more clear about what we wanted to do,"she says.

The candlelit reception on an estate outside Boston was exactly the warm but elegant affair she and her husband had wanted, she notes.

There is one tradition that almost all brides and grooms follow at their wedding, according to Gordon. "The cake is usually the one thing that everybody sticks with."

Tax tips for divorced and divorcing spouses

A story released today by Press Release Newswire reports that  tax season can be complex for divorced and divorcing couples, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

"As if divorced and divorcing couples do not have enough financial problems to sort through, tax time can suddenly provide an additional layer of financial issues and problems," said Charles C. Shainberg, president of the Academy.

The association offers these tax tips for the top six issues that is regularly encountered by divorced and divorcing couples at tax time:

     -- Alimony is tax deductible for the paying spouse and taxable to the receiving spouse.
     -- Child support is non-deductible to the payor and is not taxable for the recipient.
     -- Capital gains taxes on the sale of a principal residence accrue to the title-holder of the residence, even though the proceeds from the sale are split between spouses as part of the divorce.
     -- The spouse with custody of the children controls the dependency exemption for those children and must release it to the non-custodial spouse, even if the court awards the exemption to the non-custodial spouse as part of the divorce settlement.
     -- If you are filing or have filed joint returns, you and your spouse are liable for unreported or underreported income, taxes, interest and penalties. While there is a provision of the tax code for "innocent spouses" that protects those who unknowingly sign incorrect returns, if you and your spouse are having marital difficulties, it is probably better to file separate returns.
     -- Legal fees incurred to either obtain or defend against alimony claims are tax deductible.

 "In addition, those getting divorced should realize that various tax issues can play an extremely important role in how much of a couple's assets are preserved for them after their divorce," according to Shainberg.

 Those with questions should consult a qualified tax attorney or accountant.

Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Increase in out-of-wedlock births changes marital patterns

A story released today by Child Trends reports that births to couples living together account for current high levels of nonmarital childbearing. Child Trends, an independent, nonpartisan research organization is dedicated to studying children, youth, and families through data collection, analysis, and dissemination, as well as through basic research.

This finding is one of several in Births Outside of Marriage: Perceptions vs. Reality, a research brief that examines nonmarital childbearing, or births to unmarried parents. The research indicates that patterns of childbearing outside of marriage have changed since 1970 when the overwhelming majority of children (89 percent) were born to married couples. Currently, one in three children (33 percent) is born to unmarried parents and an increasing proportion of births are to couples that live together.

"Childbearing hasn't changed as much as marriage," said Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D, president and senior scholar at Child Trends. "Recent declines in the percentage of births to married couples are almost entirely due to an increase in births to cohabiting parents."

Contrary to popular perception, most unmarried mothers have relationships with their child's father. In the early 1990s, 39 percent of nonmarital births were to couples that were cohabiting. This percentage increased from the previous decade.

The recent studies of unmarried women in seven metropolitan areas also show that 45 percent were cohabiting with the father of their child at the time of birth, and another 37 percent were romantically involved with the child's father, although not living with him.

A common view is that nonmarital childbearing is mainly a racial and ethnic minority issue. While it is true that a greater percentage of black and Hispanic children are born outside of marriage, births to unmarried white women almost tripled from 1970 to 1998 (from 13.9 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 to 44 to 37.5 births per 1,000). In contrast, the nonmarital birthrate for unmarried black women declined from 95.5 per 1,000 to 73.3 per 1,000 during the same period.

Hispanic women had the highest nonmarital birthrate in 1998 at 90.1 births per 1,000 unmarried women.

The dynamics of nonmarital childbearing have also changed. The public belief is that nonmarital childbearing is the same as teen childbearing. In1970, half of all nonmarital births were to teenagers. In 1999, teens accounted for less than one-third of all children born to unmarried mothers. Women ages 20 and older accounted for more than two-thirds of all children born to unmarried mothers. Women in their early 20s also had the highest rate of nonmarital births (72.3 per 1,000).

The research also highlighted other findings about nonmarital childbirths:

After rising dramatically for several decades, the nonmarital birth rate has declined slightly since 1994, and the percentage of births to unmarried women has leveled off.

Only half of nonmarital births are first-born children.

Many of the nonmarital births to older women were preceded by teen births.

Most nonmarital births are unintended at conception (58 percent to never married women and 37 percent to formerly married women are unintended).

The authors of the research brief are Child Trends senior research analyst Elizabeth Terry-Humen, MPP, senior research associate Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D, and senior scholar Kristin Moore, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Glamour magazine investigates the trend of single-motherhood

A story released today by Entertainment Wire reports that Glamour magazine talked to five women who revealed why having a baby on their own has both frenzied and fulfilled their solo lives. It started with Glamour posing questions to mothers who are single by choice; hundreds of women responded. Of those, Glamour picked five who came to motherhood in very unique  ways for very different reasons. The story then selected excerpts from the article of the trials, tribulations and, most importantly, joys of going solo.

"Single moms by choice is a huge trend," says Judith Stacey, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a founding board member of the Council on Contemporary Families. According to recently published data from the National Center of Health Statistics, 32.8 percent of all births in 1998 were to unmarried women, up from 18.4 percent in 1980. It was just nine years ago that Republican vice president Dan Quayle preached: "It doesn't help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown--a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman--mock the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

"Back in '92, I was one of the people who dared to publicly agree with Quayle," recalls Irina Wolfle, 39, a New York City-based ad executive and the single mother of 11-month-old Jonathon. "But eight years later, after a string of failed relationships, I had to rethink things. When I unexpectedly got pregnant, I thought, well, OK. Here goes." What helps Wolfle tremendously is her close knit circle of loving, caring friends and family.Her sister, Narda Johnson, 43, quit her job to care for Jonathan while Wolfle is at work.

Rachel Pepper, 36, of San Francisco reveals "When I hit 31, my biological clock started ticking like crazy," reveals. "I'd just opened my bookstore, which was very successful, and I felt that once I was financially stable, there was nothing to hold me back"--with or without a partner. Pepper spent more than a year trying to become pregnant. "As a lesbian, I knew I wasn't just going to get pregnant one night having sex with the person I love." "I so desperately wanted to get pregnant that I considered asking every handsome man I saw. It became an obsession." One year, seven tries with artificial insemination and more than $2000 later, Pepper finally became pregnant with her daughter, Frances, now two and a half. "When I found out, it was the happiest moment of my life."

Beth Bush, 30, a Clinton, Mississippi, native and former administrative assistant, is also proud of raising her one-and-a-half-year-old triplets--Bailey, Arianna, and Olivia--alone. Her baby's father, whom she had been dating only for a few months, left around the same time she got pregnant. Bush says her  former boss, who declined to comment, tried to persuade her to put the babies up for adoption. He even went so far as to find two adoptive families for her. "No words fit to print could describe how mad I was," Bush says. "Financially, life is very difficult," Bush says. The baby's father, who has never seen the girls, has taken a DNA test and signed paternity papers, which require him to pay $300 a month in child support. "That's not even enough to cover their baby food, let alone the 20 diapers a day they go through," says Bush. In an email Bush sent to Glamour after her interview, she summed up her life as a single mom: "Being a single mom is what you make of it. The joy I feel around (my children) is indescribable."


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