Family and Relationships

Family and Relationships

Capital Punishment
The death penalty is currently implemented in 30 states. It was re-legalized by a Supreme Court decision in 1977. Since then, 552 people have been executed. About 3,335 inmates remain on ‘Death Row.’ Texas is by far the national leader in executions — it has executed 178 people as of June 1999, 32% of the national total.
Much of the current controversy about the death penalty focuses on the circumstances where it should be applied, and on its unequal application among racial and socioeconomic classes. About 52% of death row inmates are Black or other minority, versus 17% in the general population. Over 98% of death row inmates are male.
Hate Crimes
Congress defines ‘Hate Crimes’ as a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation of that person. Hate Crimes are covered primarily as racial or anti-gay issues under Civil Rights.
Amendments V and VIII to the US Constitution
V. No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…. (1791)
VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (1791)

Pollution Control vs. Cost Control The Clean Air Act: (CAA) regulates industrial smokestacks and other sources of smog, acid rain, and other air pollutants. The CAA uses numerous market incentives, including ‘pollution permits’ that are traded on open markets, to minimize costs.
The Clean Water Act: (CWA) regulates ‘point-source’ (sewage pipes) and ‘non-point-source’ (land and road runoff) water pollution. The EPA’s approach since the early 1990s is ‘watershed-based,’ which means cooperating across political boundaries.
CAFE standard: The ‘Corporate Average Fuel Economy’ requires that all automobile manufacturers maintain an average of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) for all vehicles sold.
Command-and-control: Standardized regulations with central enforcement (usually by EPA), as opposed to market-based incentives.

nd Relationships
Adoption: 19 states allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in a complex and expensive two-step process, in which one parent first adopts and then the second can petition for joint rights.
Ceremonial Marriages: Same Sex Marriages may be officiated by church officials, or anyone else, but ceremonial marriages in and of themselves involve no civil laws and carry no legal benefits or responsibilities.
Domestic Partnership Registration: is a means by which some cities allow opposite- and same-sex couples to go on public record as a non-married couple. The major benefit is used to establish legal responsibility for debts after a relationship ends.
Domestic Partnership Affidavit: Many private employers and municipalities offer domestic partner benefits to their workers, based on signing a legal affidavit that defines an economic relationship.

Civil Unions
In Dec. 1999, the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed a 1996 ruling, and defined marriage as between different sex couples.
In April 2000, the Vermont House of Representatives gave final approval to same-sex marriages. Gays and lesbians may join in “civil unions,” which are no expected to be recognized by other states and will not entitle the partners to federal benefits. The Vermont Supreme Court had ruled in December that gay and lesbian couples denied the right to marry were suffering from unconstitutional discrimination.
In June 2000, the Supreme Court let stand a New Jersey ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to ban gay scoutmasters.
In July 2000, Vermont began offering a separate form of marriage, conferring about 300 spousal rights to same sex couples.
The Civil Union license is obtained from town clerks. There is a $20 fee. The Unions are “certified” either by justices of the peace, judge, or willing member of the clergy. Civil Union couples also have the right to dissolve their unions through a “dissolution” process in Family Court.

Civil Unions Benefits
Definitions: Use of State laws that confer benefits or rights to people based on their marital or family status, such as family landowner rights to hunt and fish, or definitions of family farmers.
Adoption: Entitled to all the protections and benefits available when adopting. Same-sex couples already are allowed to adopt, but laws would reflect that those couples would now be treated as spouses.
Compensation: Use of victims’ compensation and workers’ compensation related to spouses.
Discrimination: Use of laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status.
Health Care: Able to make medical decisions for incapacitated partner. Able to visit hospitals visitation and be notified of a partner’s condition.
Insurance: State employees are treated as spouses for insurance or continuing care contracts.
Lawsuits: Able to sue for wrongful death, the emotional distress caused by a partner’s death or injury, and loss of consortium caused by death or injury.
Property: Entitled to joint title, transfer from one to the other on death, and property transfer tax benefits.
Probate: Use probate law and procedures.
State Tax: Treated as an economic unit.
Testimony: Not be compelled to testify against one another.

Federal rights NOT Covered by Civil Unions
Immigration Rights: Cannot have a non-U.S. spouse become a full citizen.
Social Security: Cannot collect benefits upon death of a spouse.
Federal Taxes: Cannot file jointly as a married couple

Societal Issues
Boy Scouts: In June 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America can bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Clinton administration in 1993 enacted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Under the existing rules, gays can be discharged from the military for homosexual contact and for stating their sexual orientation, but the military is not allowed to ask them their orientation. (see Defense)
On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts began allowing same-sex marriages. This followed a ruling by the Massacshuetts Supreme Judicial Court in a case known as “Goodridge.” The Massachusetts legislature passed a bill to allow voters to decide on a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marraiges, but the referendum vote will not occur until November 2006. The Massachusetts law only applies to in-state residents, but many cities and towns have declined to ask applicants their residency.

Endangered Species

Endangered Species

‘Roe v. Wade’ refers to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
‘Right to Choose’ refers to a pro-choice stance, upholding Roe v. Wade.
‘Right to Life’ refers to a pro-life stance, seeking to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade
Pro-life advocates refer to Roe v. Wade as an example of ‘Judicial Activism’ or ‘legislating from the bench’, i.e., that judges are making the law rather than interpreting it. In these terms, pro-life advocates believe in ‘Strict Constructionism’, or a literal interpretation of the Constitution with no implied rights.
A ‘Litmus test’ requires Vice Presidential & Supreme Court nominees to agree with one’s abortion view.
‘The Human Life Amendment’ would be a Constitutional Amendment overturning Roe v. Wade. There is currently no such Amendment pending, but proponents regularly introduce ‘Human Life Bills’ in Congress.
Roe v. Wade

The essence of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision is that Constitutional rights apply only after birth; hence abortion does not breach a person’s right to life. States cannot regulate 1st trimester abortions; states can regulate but not ban 2nd trimester abortions; and states can ban 3rd trimester abortions (as many have).
The debate on abortion generally focuses on when human life begins. The courts often focus on ‘viability’, the point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb. Viability naturally begins at about 6 months of pregnancy, but with modern medical advances the age of viability is pushed back substantially. Strong pro-life advocates believe that the fetus should be protected from the moment of conception.
Abortion Legislation

The details of abortion legislation focus on what the states can regulate and what they can ban in later trimesters:
‘Partial-Birth Abortion’ refers to a late-term abortion method which induces a breech delivery and collapses the fetal skull before completing delivery. This procedure is banned in 24 states, but pro-choice advocates, including President Clinton, have sought to overturn state laws with a federal ruling. In April, the Supreme Court rejected a Nebraska law banning partial birth abortions. In June, the Court said that the Nebraska ban was unconstitutional because it had no exceptions and barred second trimester abortions.
Each state decides if ‘Parental Consent’ is required for teenagers seeking abortions. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that spousal consent cannot be required by the states.
Each state also determines rules about ‘informed consent’, about 24-hour waiting periods, and about when viability occurs after the 1st trimester.
Related Legislation

‘Clinic Access’ laws refer to what pro-life protesters may and may not do at the entrances to abortion clinics, and how far away they must stay. Clinic access became an issue after several abortion clinics were bombed and several abortion doctors were shot in recent years.
‘RU-486’ is a drug that induces abortion in early pregnancy. In September 2000, after 12 years of study, the FDA approved the use of RU-486 until the 7th week of pregnancy.
‘Cloning’ is a rapidly advancing technology in which a fetus develops from only one parent. It has been successful in animals, and is entering trial stages with humans. Pro-life advocates generally oppose cloning on the same basis that they oppose abortion.
‘Stem Cells’ are undifferentiated cells, which are useful in research for cloning and for treating many diseases. Stem cells are best taken from human fetuses; hence the pro-life opposition. Many pro-life advocates support fetal stem cell research because of the medical potential. In 2001, Pres. Bush announced that the federal policy would be to allow fetal stem cell research on existing stem cell lines but not on new ones.
Buzzwords in the abortion debate

Describing abortion as a health issue or as a women’s rights issue is a pro-choice stance.
Describing abortion as a moral issue or as an issue of balancing the mother’s rights with the fetus’ rights, is a pro-life stance.
Any reference to “the rights of the unborn” is a strong pro-life stance, as is defining life “from the moment of conception.”
Any reference to “the rights of the mother” is a strong pro-choice stance, as is defining a “right to privacy” (between a woman and her doctor).
As mentioned above, the most obscure buzzword is that supporting ‘judicial activism’ implies a pro-choice stance, while supporting ‘strict constructionism’ implies a pro-life stance. In nominations for Supreme Court justices, asking this question is the archetypical ‘Litmus Test’ — liberal Senators spent many hours questioning Clarence Thomas on whether he held a Strict Constructionist view of the Constitution (he did not admit so).
For serious policy wonks, the most important abortion buzzword is ‘Stare Decisis’ — that is the basis upon which Clarence Thomas declined to rule against Roe v. Wade. Thomas meant that although he would have ruled against Roe v. Wade in 1973, he would not do so now because the 1973 Supreme Court ruling had been in force for a quarter century and hence has precedential weight.
Endangered Species
Endangered Species Act (ESA): 1973 law prohibiting activities that harm endangered plants or animals or their habitats. Which species are threatened & endangered are listed or ‘delisted’ by the Secretaries of Interior & Commerce. The controversy comes from limitations on private property to protect one species.
Takings: The federal government is allowed to take private property when it serves the public interest (via ‘eminent domain’) but must pay fair market value. When the ESA regulates private property use (such as disallowing development), the value is decreased even though the property is not fully taken. The ‘takings’ controversy concerns how much the government should pay to property owners when their property is only partially taken.