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AASP FIGHTING LAWS UNFAIR TO SINGLE PEOPLE.

Byline: Bill Hillburg Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Forget about finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.

The American Association for Single People is all about securing equal rights.

Members of the Glendale-based nonprofit group will arrive in Washington today to lobby Congress on Social Security reforms and other issues as part of their ``Unmarried and Single Americans Week'' observance.

``People have been conditioned to think that all single people want not to be single; that's just not true,'' said Thomas F. Coleman, AASP's executive director. ``And when people first hear about our group, they think it's a dating service.''

Coleman, an attorney and civil rights activist who is single, said the AASP, founded in 1999 and now with 1,500 paying members, has some serious issues and numbers on its side. According to the 2000 Census, unmarried adults headed nearly half the nation's households and a slight majority of those in California.

Coleman and his fellow activists hope to represent the interests of a broad coalition of single adults - widows and widowers, divorcees, gays and lesbians and those who have never married. Coleman said the group is concentrating on concerns affecting all unmarried adults and does not support such controversial issues as legalized marriage for gays and lesbians.

Social Security, with regulations still steeped in the husband-wife household format, is a major target for the group. Coleman noted that benefits for married Social Security recipients continue for spouses upon the death of a husband or wife. But, singles' sizable investments in the program are forfeited at death. AASP advocates allowing unmarried people to designate a child, other relative or domestic partner to receive their Social Security benefits after they die.

But Glenn Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs for Focus on the Family, a group founded in Southern California by Dr. James Dobson and now based in Colorado, said government should not encourage untraditional living arrangements.

``These people are striving for affirmation,'' he said. ``If you want to live together without getting married, nobody is going to stop you, but we're also not going to give you recognition and benefits. Do what you want and live with the consequences of it.''

Focus on the Family is backing the Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional change sponsored by Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss. The measure would limit the legal definition of marriage to traditional unions between men and women and would deny some government benefits to unmarried adults.

``Throughout history, there has been one model that holds households together - and that's marriage,'' argued Stanton. ``Groups like the AASP are trying to minimize marriage to nothing.''

Stan Charnofsky, a professor of educational psychology at California State University, Northridge and a member of AASP's advisory board, said he has seen no real evidence that marriage offers either partners or society more benefits than alternative household arrangements.

``We make such a big deal about marriage, but the fact is that half of all marriages today end in divorce and so to do half of all second marriages,'' said Charnofsky, a divorcee with three grown children and a leading expert on the singles scene. In his latest book, ``Surfing the Single Life,'' he identified two major groups of singles: those seeking marriage and mates and those who are ``married to their work or art and not seeking or requiring a relationship.''

Charnofsky noted that society has always had a large number of unmarried people, and that only their living arrangements have changed in recent years.

``At the turn of the last century, people who never married, were divorced or widowed either stayed in their family home or returned there,'' he said. ``Today, they mostly live alone or in other types of relationships and arrangements.''

Coleman said he expects an uphill battle on Capitol Hill, where he plans to call on the offices of all 535 Senate and House members. He said special effort will be made on lobbying unmarried lawmakers, including Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, and David Dreier, R-Covina.

``You always hear both parties talking about how they support working families,'' said Coleman. ``Who ever heard of an employer hiring a family?'' He noted that single adults, who make up 40 percent of the work force, get unequal treatment on benefits, paying more proportionately for employer-subsidized health insurance than married co-workers with family coverage. They also have fewer pension options, with most plans limiting shared benefits to spouses.

CAPTION(S):

photo, chart

Photo:

Thomas Coleman, executive director of the American Association for Single People, will go to Washington, D.C. next week to lobby for the rights and benefits of unmarried people.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer

Chart:

LIVING SINGLE

SOURCE: Census 2000
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 16, 2002
Words:775
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