Clinton Pledges to be 'Partner' with Gays
by Michael Foust
Appearing at an historic Democratic presidential forum on homosexual issues on August 9, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said she hopes to be a partner with the homosexual community if elected president and pledged to work on a broad range of like-minded issues upon taking office, including passage of a civil unions bill and repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't" tell policy.
In addition, and possibly for the first time in a public setting, she said she opposes state constitutional marriage amendments, which protect the natural definition of marriage and which a majority of states in recent years have adopted.
It was the first time the leading candidates from a major party appeared on one stage to discuss issues important to the homosexual community. Also appearing were Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich. The two-hour forum was broadcast on the MTV-owned Logo Channel — a homosexual-themed channel — and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual activist organization. Candidates appeared one after the other and had approximately twenty minutes apiece.
"I really hope that we can be partners in trying to make our country a little bit better and a little more progressive for all of us," Clinton told the audience, adding that her husband's administration "didn't get as much done as I would have liked" on homosexual issues.
She reiterated her support for same-sex civil unions — which Obama and Edwards also back — and called her opposition to "gay marriage" a "personal issue." But she also indicated opposition to every effort by conservatives to prevent its legalization, including passage of state amendments. That is significant, because in 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry actually supported a marriage amendment in his home state of Massachusetts. In at least one state, Oregon, passage of such an amendment in 2004 likely prevented the state high court from legalizing "gay marriage," some conservatives believe.
"I…have been a very strong supporter of letting the states maintain their jurisdiction over marriage," she said. "And I believe that was the right decision, for a lot of reasons. It's easy to forget that just two and a half years ago, we were facing all of these referenda that were enshrining discrimination in state constitutions. And a lot of people tried very hard to fight against them and prevent them from being passed, but unfortunately they were [passed]. Now, two and a half years later, we're beginning to see other states take different approaches.
Instead of adopting marriage amendments, states nowadays are saying, "Well, maybe we don't want to do that," Clinton said.
She said "don't ask, don't tell" — which prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military — was a "transitional" policy adopted during her husband's administration. Its repeal is one of her "highest priorities," she said.
"When I am president we will get it done," she said.
Clinton also said she favors repealing Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Such a move would allow the federal government to recognize marriages on the state level, such as those in Massachusetts. DOMA, she said, played a key role in assisting opponents of the federal marriage amendment.
"I don't know that we could have defeated it if we had not had DOMA," she said. "That is something that has provided a great protection against what was clearly the Republican strategy — blessed by George Bush, led by the Congressional Republicans — to just cynically use marriage as a political tool."
Teen Birth Rates at Historic Low
by Erin Roach
In a culture replete with dismal statistics, one positive report is that the number of teenage mothers is at a record low, continuing a fourteen-year downward trend.
Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the nonprofit Child Trends research center reported in June that the 2005 birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 was 40.4 births for every one thousand female teens, which is 35 percent lower than the peak of 61.8 percent in 1991.
Though birth rates varied across racial and ethnic groups, numbers were down across the board, Child Trends said. For white teen females, twenty-six out of every one thousand gave birth in 2005. The same year, the birth rate for non-Hispanic black teen females was 60.9, and for Hispanics it was 81.5.
"The trend lines on teen births are generally moving in the right direction, and we should pause and savor that fact," Jennifer Manlove, who helped prepare the report, said in a news release. "But it is far too early to declare this problem solved since the U.S. teen birth rate is still higher than that of any other developed nation."
Texas had the highest teen birth rate for 2005 with sixty-three births for every one thousand females ages 15 to 19, followed by Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Arizona, Child Trends reported. The lowest teen birth rates were found in the Northeast, where New Hampshire led with eighteen for every one thousand female teens, followed by Vermont and Massachusetts.
Data from the report also shows that 83 percent of teen births are to unwed mothers.
Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits, emphasized the need for abstinence movements to keep showing teenage girls the path toward a healthier future.
Abstinence campaigns create an "identity movement" or "moral community" that provides peer support for teenagers and helps them say no to sex outside marriage when the temptation arises, Hester said. But too many girls do not yet have that kind of support system.
"Despite the progress made over the past decade, much work remains to be done," he said. "The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births in the industrialized world, resulting in severe economic and social costs, not to mention the personal pain early sexual activity places upon teenagers and their families."
Majority of Americans Favors High Court's Partial-Birth Abortion Ruling
by Tom Strode
A majority of the American public approves of the Supreme Court's April decision to uphold the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, according to a new survey.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll found 55 percent of the public supports the high court's 5-4 opinion in favor of the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. It marked the first judicially approved restriction on a specific procedure since the justices legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. The survey results, published July 29 in The Post, showed 43 percent of the public opposes the decision and 2 percent has no opinion.
The poll also showed 31 percent of Americans thinks the court is too conservative, an increase from 19 since the question was last asked in July 2005. The new survey also found 18 percent believes the court is too liberal and 47 percent thinks it is generally balanced. Two years ago, 55 percent of the public believed the court was balanced.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said on July 27 the Supreme Court "is dangerously out of balance" and the Senate should not confirm another nominee to that bench "except in ordinary circumstances," according to The Politico, a Washington newspaper.
"We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito," Schumer told a meeting of the American Constitution Society in Washington.
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, 87, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 74, are the two oldest members of the high court. As members of the liberal wing of the court, they oppose restrictions on abortion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito are Bush nominees who were in the majority in the partial-birth abortion ruling.
Dana Perrino, a White House spokeswoman, said the comments demonstrate "the kind of blind obstruction that people have come to expect from Senator Schumer."
"He has an alarming habit of attacking people whose character and position make them unwilling or unable to respond," Perrino said. "That is the sign of a bully."
The Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act bars a procedure in which, as typically used, an intact baby is delivered feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant's skull with surgical scissors before inserting a catheter into the opening and suctioning out the brain, killing the baby. The technique, which normally is performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, provides for easier removal of the baby's head. The law allows an exception if the mother's life is threatened.
A nurse who witnessed a partial-birth abortion once told Congress she saw the "baby's little fingers … clasping and unclasping, and his little feet … kicking" before going "completely limp" after the skull was collapsed.