Bush on Marriage
Date: Sat Jan 17, 2004 6:12 am
Subject: Bush on Marriage
Heartless Marriage Plans
Published: January 17,
The Bush administration's
idea of spending $1.5 billion promoting marriage is one of those
rather expensive but basically symbolic gestures that presidents
like to make in election years. Mr. Bush's advisers may also
hope that it will divert social conservatives from pressing for
a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. But as meaningless
sops to powerful voting blocs go, this
one is particularly cruel.
The whole idea of encouraging
poor people to get married and stay married through classes and
counseling sessions ignores the main reason that stable wedlock
is rare in inner cities: the epidemics of joblessness and incarceration
that have stripped those communities of what social scientists
call "marriageable" men. Women in poor neighborhoods
may find bitter amusement in the idea that they need the government's
encouragement to search for a husband, or that conflict resolution
courses are the way to shore up troubled unions between two poor
It is undeniably true that
women tend to become poorer after divorce and that children from
single-family homes are more likely to grow up in poverty. But
the fiscal lift that occurs when middle-class couples marry and
combine resources does not come about in neighborhoods where
jobs have long since disappeared and men in particular tend to
be unskilled and poorly educated.
By the late 1990's, the inner
city had become the home of a needy "nonworking class,"
where single-parent families had become the norm. Poor women
have the same dreams about marriage as their suburban counterparts.
But they also know that men with jobs, skills and hope for the
future have become scarce in their world, and that a marriage
to a man without any of these things may prove more devastating
to the children than no marriage at all.
The $1.5 billion earmarked
for the dubious and untested marriage initiative would be better
spent on intervention programs that keep troubled young people
especially boys in school. It could be spent on
pregnancy prevention, and on the health insurance and the job
training that single mothers desperately need to move themselves
out of poverty.
To pour the money into marriage
and relationship counseling for people without economic hope
is a very expensive version of spitting into the wind.
Bush Plans $1.5 Billion
Drive for Promotion of Marriage
By ROBERT PEAR
and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: January 14, 2004
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13
Administration officials say they are planning an extensive election-year
initiative to promote marriage, especially among low-income couples,
and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the
plan next week in his State of the Union address.
For months, administration
officials have worked with conservative groups on the proposal,
which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to help
couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain "healthy
The officials said they believed
that the measure was especially timely because they were facing
pressure from conservatives eager to see the federal government
defend traditional marriage, after a decision by the highest
Massachusetts. The court ruled
in November that gay couples had a right to marry under
the state's Constitution.
"This is a way for the
president to address the concerns of conservatives and to solidify
his conservative base," a presidential adviser said.
Several conservative Christian
advocacy groups are pressing Mr. Bush to go further and use the
State of the Union address to champion a constitutional amendment
prohibiting same-sex marriage. Leaders of these groups said they
were confused by what they saw as the administration's hedging
and hesitation concerning an amendment.
Administration officials said
they did not know if Mr. Bush would mention the amendment, but
they expressed confidence that his marriage promotion plan would
Ronald T. Haskins, a Republican
who has previously worked on Capitol Hill and at the White House
under Mr. Bush, said, "A lot of conservatives are very pleased
with the healthy marriage initiative."
The proposal is the type of
relatively inexpensive but politically potent initiative that
appeals to White House officials at a time when they are squeezed
by growing federal budget deficits.
It also plays to Mr. Bush's
desire to be viewed as a "compassionate conservative,"
an image he sought to cultivate in his 2000 campaign. This year,
administration officials said, Mr. Bush will probably visit programs
trying to raise marriage rates in poor neighborhoods.
"The president loves
to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black churches,
and he's very good at it," a White House aide said.
In the last few years, some
liberals have also expressed interest in marriage-education programs.
They say a growing body of statistical evidence suggests that
children fare best, financially and emotionally, in married two-parent
The president's proposal may
not be enough, though, for some conservative groups that are
pushing for a more emphatic statement from him opposing gay marriage.
"We have a hard time
understanding why the reserve," said Glenn T. Stanton, a
policy analyst at Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian
organization. "You see him inching in the right direction.
But the question for us is, why this inching? Why not just get
The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon,
chairman of a national group called the Traditional Values Coalition,
has started an e-mail campaign urging Mr. Bush to push for an
amendment opposing the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Other groups, like the Southern
Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, are pushing more
quietly for the same thing, through contacts with White House
officials, especially Karl Rove, the president's chief political
aide, who has taken a personal interest in maintaining contacts
with evangelical groups.
In an interview with ABC News
last month, Mr. Bush was asked if he would support a constitutional
amendment against gay marriage and gay civil unions.
he said, "I will support a constitutional amendment which
would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that,
and will the position of this administration is that whatever
legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make,
so long as it's embraced by the state, or does start at the state
Date: Sat Jan 17, 2004 6:14 am
Subject: Bush Marriage Part Two
Critics, and Controversy
Bush Plans $1.5 Billion
Drive for Promotion of Marriage
Published: January 14,
(Page 2 of 2)
Asked to cite the circumstances
in which a constitutional amendment might be needed, Trent Duffy,
a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday, "That is a decision
the president has to make in due time."
The House of Representatives
has approved a proposal to promote marriage as part of a bill
to reauthorize the 1996 welfare law, but the bill is bogged down
in the Senate.
Without waiting for Congress
to act, the administration has retained consultants to help state
and local government agencies, community organizations and religious
groups develop marriage-promotion programs.
Wade F. Horn, the assistant
secretary of health and human services for children and families,
said: "Marriage programs do work. On average, children raised
by their own parents in healthy, stable married families enjoy
better physical and mental health and are less likely to be poor."
Prof. Linda J. Waite, a demographer
and sociologist at the University of Chicago, compiled an abundance
of evidence to support such assertions in the book "The
Case for Marriage" (Doubleday, 2000). Ms. Waite, a former
president of the Population Association of America, said she
was a liberal Democrat, but not active in politics.
Some women's groups like the
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund oppose government programs
that promote marriage. "Such programs intrude on personal
privacy, may ignore the risk of domestic violence and may coerce
women to marry," said Timothy J. Casey, a lawyer at the
Administration officials said
their goal was "healthy marriage," not marriage for
its own sake.
"We know this is a sensitive
area," Dr. Horn said. "We don't want to come in with
a heavy hand. All services will be voluntary. We want to help
couples, especially low-income couples, manage conflict in healthy
ways. We know how to teach problem-solving, negotiation and listening
skills. This initiative will not force anyone to get or stay
married. The last thing we'd want is to increase the rate of
domestic violence against women."
Under the president's proposal,
federal money could be used for specific activities like advertising
campaigns to publicize the value of marriage, instruction in
marriage skills and mentoring programs that use married couples
as role models.
Federal officials said they
favored premarital education programs that focus on high school
students; young adults interested in marriage; engaged couples;
and unmarried couples at the moment of a child's birth, when
the parents are thought to have the greatest commitment to each
Alan M. Hershey, a senior
fellow at Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton, N.J., said
his company had a $19.8 million federal contract to measure the
effectiveness of such programs for unwed parents. Already, Mr.
Hershey said, he is providing technical assistance to marriage-education
projects in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, New
Mexico and Texas.
A major purpose, he said,
is to help people "communicate about money, sex, child-raising
and other difficult issues that come up in their relationships."
Dr. Horn said that federal
money for marriage promotion would be available only to heterosexual
couples. As a federal official, he said, he is bound by a 1996
statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage
for any program established by Congress. The law states, "The
word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and
one woman as husband and wife."
But Dr. Horn said: "I
don't have any problem with the government providing support
services to gay couples under other programs. If a gay couple
had a child and they were poor, they might be eligible for food
stamps or cash assistance."
Sheri E. Steisel, a policy
analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said,
"The Bush administration has raised this issue to the national
level, but state legislators of both parties are interested in
offering marriage education and premarital counseling to low-income
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