Definition of ‘couple’ must be expanded

To the editor,

Pajarita Charles’ article on strengthening unmarried couples’ security, health and happiness [Philanthropy Journal, 01.30.06], misses several significant marks, intuitive in both the current and earlier election cycles, and challenged by the Bush administration.

First, Ms. Charles does not compare stability among low-income couples with that of medium or high-income couples.

There are only minimal differences among income groups related to marriage stability: Currently, divorce among all income brackets rests in the 40-to-60-percent rate.

Throwing money — the $1.5 billion the author indicates that will be spent over five years by the Bush administration to “promote marriage and discourage out-of wedlock births among fragile families” — is quite simply naive and bad policy.

The two greatest enemies of enhancing families are to narrowly define what a family is, and an economy that requires parents and caregivers to choose between nurturing initiatives and simple acts such as buying food and paying expenses.

$1.5 billion will only support failed practice and false science.

The Bush administration in the last election attempted to “define” family though electioneering a stupidly-worded proposal for amendment to the United States Constitution, the first time blatantly discriminatory words were suggested for inclusion in that document.

How committed was he to that cause?

The answer is that, once the election was secured — this time by numbers and not by the U.S. Supreme Court — not one peep has been heard from his Attorney General, his legal staff, or his cabinet related to the proposal.

Ms. Charles fails to recognize that families take many shapes, forms and varieties, and that regardless of child-bearing-and-rearing responsibilities, families are diminished by the administration she champions.

Where, for example, are senior citizens, whose benefits would diminish were they to make public and legal acknowledgement of their commitment?

Where are the same-sex couples, who in many states have been awarded the rights for adoption?

Where are those second-parent adopters, who are institutionally denied the option of marriage?

Are these not disadvantaged, also?

We in the philanthropy arena are cognizant of the varieties of methods of lifestyle pursuits in our communities.

Philanthropy supports the expansion of services and opportunities, not defining and legislating out those of our friends who challenge our levels of comfort.

For the sake of the enhancement and preservation of our families and children, the definition of “couple” must be expanded to include the obvious — that families exhibit characteristics different from black-and-white television, and that they are not to be ignored.

There is no prejudice in philanthropy; there is no gain in minimizing the definition of opportunity.

— Scott E. Conlan, former executive director, Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition, Philadelphia.

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