Archive for the ‘marriage promotion’ Category
Several AtMP members around the county used their winter holidays to scour the news for interesting stories about marriage and its alternatives. Here are just a few of the many worth talking about:
Ann was the first to spot the efforts of different-sex unmarried couples to be included in domestic partner coverage being offered to employees of the U.S. State Department. (Yay! if you have a connection to Mr. Howard or Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, please let us know!) According to the L.A. Times,
Supporters of extending benefits to unmarried heterosexuals include such key Congress members as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) and the committee’s top Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
Thomas was the first to point out the ironies of Karl Rove’s divorce, as Rove worked to build connections between the Bush II administration and religious/political figures who favored marriage promotion.
Stephanie was the first to share the news that Virginia’s statewide Advance Health Care Directive Registry is set to go live for individuals on February 17, 2010.
Marisa pointed out CNN’s approach to covering the “people get married for health insurance” story. Hardly news, but a good summary of the issues with lots of relevant and not too obnoxious comments.
I really appreciate AtMP members sending these tips, which always go beyond what I catch via key words on Google Alerts. I also pick up interesting news from other organizations’ email lists. Just before the new year, folks at Smartmarriages shared the Onion’s trenchant predictions on cohabitation, and Women’s Enews publicized fascinating legal reforms around marriage and divorce in Uganda and Nepal.
Recently we were tickled to discover that the Fatherhood and Marriage Leadership Institute is using the existence of our new Get Marriage Out of TANF Coalition as a threat to mobilize pro-marriage-promotion forces to defend their federal funding.
On seeing FAMLI’s dire warning, the director of a marriage counseling program sent AtMP this friendly inquiry:
Wow! You must really believe that you are promoting a good cause. One of my areas of disagreement would be that funding TANF efforts takes away from poverty projects.
Married couples often have a higher family income. Isn’t that in itself proof that poverty is diminished through promotion of healthy marriage?
Why do the two programs have to be mutually exclusive? Your choices are your choices. My choices are mine. If you want to promote your cause, why down play mine?
Here’s a fleshed-out version of the brief response I sent him:
1. Yes, we really do believe our cause is a good one. AtMP’s cause is fairness and equality for all unmarried people, societal support for all healthy relationships, and the end of marital status discrimination, singlism and couplism. Admittedly, a very big vision! There are an infinite number of ways we could work towards our vision; we pick just a handful to work on at a time, and protesting welfare-funded marriage promotion is just one of many issues we have tackled over the years. One reason this issue captures our attention is that many of AtMP’s staff and board members over the years have personal histories and values that center on social justice and anti-poverty work. So it is particularly galling to see anti-poverty funds redirected to marriage promotion.
2. In fact, the federal TANF budget (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) was not increased to fund marriage programs; rather, marriage programs took a slice out of the pie that would otherwise fund more directly targeted anti-poverty programs. Similarly, the FAMLI-led campaign to get each state to allocate 1% of state-controlled TANF funds to marriage programs does not increase the state’s TANF budget to 101% of its former size; rather, it decreases state-funded anti-poverty programs to 99% of their former size. Furthermore, federally funded marriage programs are explicitly not anti-poverty programs: they need not serve low-income people, and their effect on participants’ economic well-being barely made it into the evaluation criteria. (For detail on that, see Let Them Eat Wedding Rings pages 4 and 14.)
 The correlation of marriage with family income does not prove that marriage diminishes poverty! If that’s not obvious, read this. In fact, researchers recognize the importance of the selection effect: people with higher incomes, more education and maybe even more ambition are more likely to choose marriage and to choose to marry similarly situated people. The academic debate is about whether marrying has any significant impact on income beyond the selection effect. Even a glowingly pro-marriage-promotion literature review found that marriage increased men’s incomes by well under 10%.
 “Your choices are your choices. My choices are mine.” This could not be better said! That’s why so many Americans are dismayed that their tax dollars are being spent to tell people that one choice (marriage) is better than another.
I often check the New Old Age blog, because anecdotes suggest that unmarried people may be tapped (more than their married siblings or peers) to become caregivers for elderly parents. Today’s post caught my eye: families can write contracts to compensate the caretakers for lost income. That’s a good idea for people who leave their jobs entirely. But what about people who “just” take time off work to care for parents, siblings or anyone not their spouse?
I call “being able to take time off work to care for a family member without being fired” care time for short. Care time improves the health and economic well-being of workers and their families. Although unmarried people have real family care needs and responsibilities, they disproportionately lack care-time because
- their employers are allowed to penalize employees for taking care-time, or
- their employers are mandated to provide some kind of care-time, but are allowed to use marital status to determine which employees get care-time.
The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act would greatly improve people’s right to care for non-spouses. It would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent who has a serious health condition. Congress tried to pass it in 2007 but didn’t get anywhere. It was re-introduced on April 28th with more co-sponsors, and is now in committee.
A related proposal, the Family Leave Insurance Act would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave benefits to workers who need to care for an ill family member (child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling) or new child, to treat their own illness, or to deal with an exigency caused by the deployment of a member of the military.
AtMP is seeking a volunteer to track the progess on these bills and help us further develop our care time strategy. Though I love to meet our volunteers, this work can be done anywhere via phone and email. If you’re interested, please post here or send me an email.
“Society obviously benefits from healthy relationships. But healthy relationships are not limited to marriage,” said the Rev. Craig Schwalenberg, assistant minister at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, which recognizes civil unions by same-sex partners.
“Attaching a stigma to those who choose not to marry or to divorce for good reason is not something I’d be interested in promoting,” he said.
Here at AtMP we have better things to do than publicly shame and stigmatize people with whom we disagree. But there will always be others who think its appropriate to, say, stigmatize unwed mothers or bring back the shame of divorce. New data on the rising number of unmarried parents is provoking waves of fingerwagging in the media. Here are a couple of this week’s examples.
Editors at these and other media sources need to learn that readers want to see proposals to help all parents and children succeed, rather than blaming and scolding. Take advantage of comment pages; write letters to editors!
Do you know someone who’d rather shame than help unmarried parents? Print out our Affirmation of Family Diversity, and hand it to them!
For an antidote, check out AtMP members Raymond & Kristina – the unmarried parents featured in Time Magazine. (By the way, that ” sociologist [who] dubbed [them] committed unmarrieds (CUs)” is Alison Hatch, who was recently a member of AtMP’s Board of Directors. AtMP worked closely with the author of this article, as we often do behind the scenes.)
From USA Today:
“Most people want to get married someday, and most do. That’s not at issue,” says Nicky Grist of the Brooklyn-based Alternatives to Marriage Project, a non-profit advocate for the rights of the unmarried.
She and others have organized an ad hoc coalition that will ask the Obama administration to stop using anti-poverty money for marriage promotion.
“What’s at issue is really two things, from our perspective,” she says. “Should government tell people when to get married? And should government and society privilege marriage over all other relationships? Our answer to both those questions is no.”
What do YOU think about federally funded marriage advertisements? How do you think “the administration [should] “make choices based on shrinking budgets and a worsening economy?”
120 AtMPers emailed Congress last week, asking that the stimulus bill include domestic partners in its expansion of Cobra affordability. On Monday I called Senator Sue Collin’s office (because she has expressed support for domestic partners and because she had a high-profile role in the stimulus compromise). Her staff said that there were already 500 amendments proposed so there is no chance that they could squeeze in an amendment guaranteeing Cobra for domestic partners. But, we’ve started the conversation.
Although we didn’t win Cobra guarantees for domestic partners, we did raise awareness about yet another example of marital status discrimination, and we strengthened some alliances and made new contacts in Washington. This is a good example of AtMP’s increased focus on advocacy. Some members have asked whether this is lobbying, whether it’s allowed, and whether they could be personally targetted as donors they way people were in the aftermath of Prop 8.
Yes, it’s lobbying; yes, it’s allowed. AtMP’s tax status is 501c3, and we have filed the proper forms with the IRS so we’re allowed to use up to 20% of our cash expenses telling decision makers how to vote on specific legislation, and we’re allowed to use up to 5% of our cash expenses urging people to tell their lawmakers how to vote.
No, our donors do not have to be identified if they don’t want to be. Anyone can donate anonymously. We list non-anonymous donors in our annual reports, which we mail to the donors and post online. But we do not send a list of donors to the IRS or any state regulator.
I asked the Alliance for Justice how to explain what happened with Prop 8; their response is so helpful that I’m quoting it entirely (with permission):
The reason this issue can get a little confusing is that there are two completely separate laws working here. The federal tax law that governs your 501(c)(3) status (and limits how much you can lobby under the 501(h) election) is different from the California campaign finance laws that require disclosure of some donors to ballot measure committees.
Under federal tax law, your work on ballot measures is treated as lobbying, and all you have to worry about is staying within your lobbying limits. California campaign finance law (California’s Political Reform Act) requires disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures in connection with state and local elections, including ballot measure elections. Even though you as a 501(c)(3) are staying within your lobbying limits, you still also have to comply with the California disclosure laws if you engage in certain activities around ballot measures. You can see various campaign disclosure manuals that apply to different types of ballot measure committees on the California Fair Political Practices Commission website: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.html?id=505#cam.
The reason that the Prop 8 donors are being disclosed has to do with California’s campaign disclosure laws; these donors were solicited by nonprofits that had become ballot measure committees, but not all nonprofits that work on ballot measures automatically become ballot measure committees. You have to do certain things and raise money a certain way in order to be classified as a ballot measure committee. I’m being very general right now, because these laws can get pretty complicated.
Today AtMP is helping Virginians advocate for recognition of family diversity in school curricula. This campaign was initiated by just one member – she keeps an eye on state government, emailed me with a ‘heads up’ last month and called me yesterday to make it urgent. Meanwhile, volunteers in New York are planning a campaign for better hospital rights. Go grassroots activists!