NYTimes.com Article: Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Marriage

geege at barrera.org geege at barrera.org
Wed Jan 14 05:32:36 PST 2004

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by geege at barrera.org.

aren't we doing a pretty good job of encouraging people to get married (and remarried and remarried) by tax penalties to single people?  what more is a government supposed to do?

geege at barrera.org

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Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Marriage

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 marriages." 

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 court
in Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that gay
couples had a right to marry under the state's

"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 please

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 there?" 

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. 

"If necessary," 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 level." 

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 fund. 

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 other. 

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

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 couples." 



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