Archive for the ‘advocacy’ Category
Such sad news: Paula Ettelbrick died last week. She was a good friend to AtMP. Everyone in our community should learn about her wise work. Please take a few moments to read some of the widespread coverage, and join our heartfelt condolences to her family.
BY: JESS GAFKOWITZ
Since 2010, I’ve been eagerly tracking the status of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a bill that if passed into law, would benefit the lives of thousands of people.
Over 120,000 foster children in the U.S. are waiting to be adopted. However, some folks are being kept from fulfilling their dream of adopting a child based on their marital status because of discriminatory state adoption laws or individual screening and placement policies carried out by agencies throughout the country. Unmarried different-sex and same-sex couples are often left out, even though many would be great parents. They just need to be given that chance! Every potential parent should be screened carefully, just like any other. Only the best interests of each child should determine who is right for them.
The ECDFA is a conscious effort to prohibit further discrimination in adoption or foster care placement on the basis of marital status, as well as the sexual orientation or gender identity of prospective adoptive or foster parents.
YOU can help ensure states and agencies treat all children and families equally by taking this simple action today:
Yesterday the Census Bureau announced it had beaten the deadline to provide redistricting data to all 50 states. Politicians around the country will soon be looking at new district boundaries. Marital status is recognized as a very strong predictor of voting patterns, so legislators facing redistricting should be very interested in how many unmarried people they represent, and what those people think. The 2010 Census information about marital status and household composition has not yet been released (though data about race and ethnicity are available now). However, we can use other recent data to estimate where unmarried potential voters might have the biggest impact.
First, what is redistricting? In a nutshell, the population both grows and moves around, but there are only 435 seats in the House of Representative. So state officials use Census redistricting data to draw new borders for Congressional (and other legislative) districts so that each district contains roughly the same number of people. (Since every state must have at least one district, the districts do not have exactly the same number of people (calling that whole one-person-one-vote thing into question, but that’s for someone else’s blog)). Typically, party loyalists try to draw boundaries that encircle constituencies most likely to vote for their party. That often means creating districts with very strange shapes.
The four states that will gain or lose the most seats are New York (loses 2), Ohio (loses 2), Florida (gains 2), and Texas (gains 4). If you love demographics, politics and technology, check out this awesome map (click the tab called ‘apportionment’).
Second, where might unmarried constituents get the most attention? There are lots of ways to come up with estimates – here’s one:
I used the 2009 American Community Survey to look up the number of unmarried individuals and unmarried partner households in every Congressional district in NY, OH, FL and TX. The data on individuals includes all people age 15 and over – this is always a source of controversy and frustration. Obviously, most 15-18 year olds are unmarried; more importantly, they can’t vote. It would take a couple hours to extract them; I’d love to coach a volunteer on how to do that.
The following districts are in the top quartile on both measures – i.e., they have more unmarried individuals as a percentage of all individuals, and more unmarried partner households as a percentage of all households, than the remaining three-quarters of all districts in all four states. (One could use other criteria to pick key districts; I’m happy to share the data with anyone who wants to do more analysis.) Click the district name to see its current map and who represents it.
Florida 3 6.7% of households are headed by unmarried partners, 60.7% of individuals are unmarried
Florida 11 7.5% - 59.1%
Florida 23 6.5% - 60.0%
New York 12 6.7% - 57.6%
New York 16 7.0% - 68.0%
New York 21 8.2% – 53.3%
New York 28 6.6% - 60.3%
Ohio 10 7.2% - 54.3%
Texas 18 6.7% - 55.9%
Texas 25 6.7% - 53.2%
Texas 30 6.9% - 57.9%
Do you live in one of these districts? Is your Representative sensitive to the concerns of unmarried voters? How can we help you get their attention?
If you’re on our email list, you recently saw my hopeful predictions for 2011. Here’s a bit more detail about what they mean and why I think they could come true.
Political candidates in majority-unmarried districts will drop their old “families first” slogans and start campaigning “for every single one of us.” An important use of the decennial Census is to redraw Congressional district lines so that each district contains roughly 1/435th of the population (that’s a simplification, of course). After the 2000 Census, our friends at Unmarried America produced a wonderful list of unmarried majority cities. We already have two volunteers willing to help crunch the latest Census figures, and we already have great feedback about what unmarried voters want candidates to say. We’ve sketched out a plan to find and draw attention to Congressional districts where most adults are unmarried. If you’re good with data and/or publicity, we can use your help to get this off the ground!
Scientists will discover that marital status discrimination is bad for people’s health, urging companies to treat unmarried employees fairly as a way to reduce healthcare costs. A fantastic advisory committee is helping us develop a research framework that could demonstrate the impact of marital status discrimination on public health. Our objective is to build widespread, high-level recognition that correlations between marital status and health outcomes are caused by laws or regulations that use marital status to determine access to healthcare. Demonstrating causality will support AtMP’s position that marital status discrimination in healthcare is a social justice problem to be solved.
Congress will rewrite the welfare law, replacing the 1990′s “marriage-only” preamble with words like: “the most important factor in a child’s upbringing is whether the child is brought up in a loving, healthy, supportive environment.” Those very words are in the preamble of the House bill mentioned in my last post – it gained 39 co-sponsors and supportive feedback from the administration last year. AtMP started advocating these changes a decade ago and we’re committed to seeing it through to success.
Major foundations will give AtMP grants to hire a full-time researcher / organizer to advance these and other projects. For the first time, a well-known LGBT foundation has invited AtMP to request a grant, and an experienced grant writer has volunteered to help me write a most compelling proposal. Wish us luck!
BY: JESS GAFKOWITZ
Last Saturday was unlike any other. I spent it in Washington, DC at the Rally to Restore Sanity / Keep Fear Alive. It was my first rally and I had a blast.
I carried a sign that read:
100,000,000 Unmarried Americans For Sanity!
A few people there, intrigued by my poster, decided to take a photo.
The night before I had an engaging debate with someone about how marriage is privileged, single payer health insurance and why health care proxies are important.
Were you at the rally too?
We’re pleased and proud to host this guest post by Bella DePaulo, PhD, wrapping up Unmarried and Single Americans Week. The week may be over, but as Bella says, our movement is just taking off!
Successful social movements have rallying cries that become known throughout the land. For example:
Black is beautiful
Sisterhood is powerful
We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it
We shall overcome
So where is the expression of group identification and pride trumpeted by singles activists? Where is the movement for respect and rights for all of the American adults who are divorced or widowed or have always been single? After all, there are more than 100 million of us.
Does the mere thought of hoisting a “singlehood is powerful” sign make you feel embarrassed and self-conscious? That right there is a big hint as to why we do not have a singles movement in the United States. Being single – especially past a certain age – is not regarded as a point of pride here. In a culture steeped in matrimania (over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings) and singlism (the stigmatizing of people who are single), singles can end up feeling defensive and apologetic simply because they are single. They are not about to march for justice!
Many stigmatized groups that took up the cause of social justice had to first fight the stereotypes that degraded them – stereotypes that, among some members, had even become internalized. Women realized, and then insisted, that they were not shrinking violets, gay men and lesbians rejected the diagnostic label that professionals had tried to impose, and African Americans showed how smart they really were. Marching in the streets is the province of people who cannot be persuaded that they are too weak or sick or stupid to do so.
There are many stereotypes of people who are single. Most fit under the obnoxious assumption that if you are single, there must be something wrong somewhere. Maybe you have “issues” or you are “damaged goods.” Other people think they know all about you, just from learning that you are not married – they are sure you are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic. One of the first and most fundamental tasks of those who want fair treatment of singles is consciousness-raising. Singles themselves – and everyone else – need to recognize that it is wholly inappropriate for anyone to be deemed inadequate in any way simply because they are single.
When we have truly succeeded, the tables will be turned: It will be the people who make singlist remarks who will feel humiliated, and not the people they are targeting with their prejudices. That’s what happens today to public figures (and often to ordinary people as well) when they make racist or sexist or homophobic remarks – they are called to account for their biases and they feel obligated to express remorse. It is a mark of the success of the various civil rights movements that appearing prejudiced is now considered shameful.
There is a comment I hear all too often from other people who learn about my interest in singlism. They say something like, “I’m single and I’ve never experienced discrimination.” Statements like that are a testament to the need for further education and consciousness-raising. It is not possible to be unmarried and treated fairly in the United States. Discrimination is written right into federal and state laws. Single people have fewer avenues of access than married people do to health insurance, Social Security benefits, several kinds of tax relief, and many other rights and entitlements. When last counted, marital status figured into the assignment of 1,138 federal benefits and protections. Unfair treatment has also been documented in the workplace, the marketplace, the military, in access to housing, and in everyday life. (The relevant research is described in Chapter 12 of Singled Out.)
To become part of a movement, singles would need to experience a shared identity. How can that happen when single people can be divorced or widowed or ever-single, when they can be rich or poor or somewhere in between, when they differ in race and ethnicity and gender and age and sexual orientation and just about every other relevant characteristic you can think of? That diversity is a real issue. Still, consider the wide range of people who are women or African American or gay. The many varieties of people within those groups presented challenges, but did not stop any of the movements from making their marks.
Another potential impediment to singles activism is that the practice of singlism does not rise to the level of viciousness that has characterized other forms of discrimination. So far as I know, no one has ever been dragged to their death behind the back of a pick-up truck simply because they were single. Nor have there ever been separate drinking fountains for married and single people.
Such differences are important, and the grievances of singles should not be overstated. Yet singles should not be hesitant to ask for fair treatment in such fundamental arenas as access to quality health care and equal compensation and treatment on the job. I don’t think we should be dissuaded from speaking out about the smaller stuff, either. We need to tell our stories, and not be silenced by singlism.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of single status, in comparison to race or gender or sexual orientation, is that it is perceived as much more fluid. You can be single today and married tomorrow or ten years from tomorrow. How can singles be expected to identify with a status that might be fleeting?
Fortunately, the quest for justice is not limited to the stigmatized. Civil rights marches, for example, have always included whites as well as blacks.
Another point is important, too: Americans now spend more years of their adult lives single than married. Of those people who are currently married, most will become single again, either by divorce or the death of their spouse. As Nicky Grist aptly put it, living outside of marriage is relevant to “all of us most of the time and some of us all of the time.” Let’s advocate for fairness for all of us, over the entire course of our adult lives.
Protest rallies are one of the most visible statements of advocacy, but there are many smaller and less public ways to advance a cause. What are some of the things we can do to promote fairness for people who are single, and how shall we go about doing them? I hope to address those questions in future posts to my blogs, and I hope others will do so as well.
[Thanks to AtMP for the opportunity to write this guest post. Thanks also to Nicky Grist, Rachel Buddeberg, Kay Trimberger, and Wendy Braitman for the terrific suggestions they sent when I asked them for their ideas about this singles activism. I hope to incorporate more of their insights as I continue the theme. Thanks, too, to Keysha Whitaker and Terry Hernon MacDonald for all their work in organizing the blog crawl. I hope it has been a happy Singes Week for all!]
We’re celebrating with a “blog crawl” – each day this week we’ll point you to a special guest posting by one of our fabulous colleagues. AtMP kicks off the week with a journal of what it’s like to have unmarried advocacy as your day job.
Today’s news is that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan once approved marital status discrimination in housing, saying that a landlord’s religious views trumped an unmarried couple’s fair housing rights. AtMP opposes her nomination unless she recants.
In addition to the obvious parallels with discrimination against LGBT people, I hope the public conversation highlights the fact that many people see marital status as a matter of religious expression.
To be truly empathetic with the American public, Supreme Court Justices must understand that some individuals and couples eschew marriage because they believe that it is a purely religious institution. For example, in a discussion posted on AtMP’s Facebook page last month, Carmen in Tennessee said “we feel it is very wrong to tell us that we HAVE to be married in order to [live together with children, under a divorce decree]. We do not believe in marriage. I feel this clause has been ordered based on religious views which I absolutely do not believe in … never in my life have I felt my rights as an American citizen have been so meaningless.”
Wearing my Alternatives to Marriage button and carrying a sign saying “Don’t throw domestic partners under the marriage equality bus”, I headed into the offices of the District Council yesterday afternoon to attend the hearing on gay marriage. The hearing proved so popular that I was only able to join other visitors in an overflow room, but I watched several rounds of testimony there on closed-circuit TV. The opinions proved to be diverse and passionate.
Nearly 300 individuals have signed up to testify before the Council on this bill that would allow same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia — including AtMP! I’m slated to testify at the second round of the hearing, to take place next Monday, Nov. 2, at 9:30am. Officials report that this is the largest number of requests to testify at a hearing that it has seen in decades.
Most of the testimony centered on the pros and cons of allowing same-sex marriage licenses to be offered by the District government, and, while AtMP supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry, we will testify that this bill unnecessarily harms other couples by ending the District’s domestic partnership registry program. The current program requires that partners be over 18, competent, living together and neither married nor already registered as domestic partners. That means that domestic partnerships are open to same- and different-sex couples as well as other types of partners including those related by blood (such as siblings). Domestic partners are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as spouses. The District’s program is so well-written and comprehensive that it has served as a model for other programs across the country.
But while endeavoring to expand rights for some same-sex couples who would choose to marry, this bill, if passed as written, would deny rights to other couples who would not, or could not, marry under the new law. At the continuation of the hearing next Monday, I will argue that this is an unwarranted and unfair step backward and this language should be removed from the bill.
So, join us in spirit by emailing the Council and tell them not to discontinue the domestic partnership registry. And, if you’re in DC, join me in person at the hearing on Monday, November 2, at 9:30 a.m. in the 5th Floor Council Chambers, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.
To learn more about D.C.’s domestic partnership registry, and the reasons we don’t want it to end, read AtMP’s official testimony.
And if you wish to watch any or all of the 7 hours of the first part of the hearing, you can download the video.