Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

A fresh idea for families

Family | Proposal would let parents delay Social Security benefits in exchange for paid leave
by Laura Finch
Posted 7/20/18, 03:30 pm

A conservative group is proposing a budget-neutral option for providing paid leave for young parents.

The idea of paid family leave is popular, and overwhelming bipartisan majorities support the benefit: 71 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats, according to a 2016 poll. The Trump administration put out a proposal for family leave earlier this year, and Ivanka Trump has made it a personal priority.

Last year, a bipartisan group of experts from the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute recommended a payroll tax hike to fund the benefit, and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced the idea in the U.S. Senate.

But now the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) has a plan to provide the benefit without raising taxes: Allow young parents to delay their Social Security benefits by three months in exchange for a partially funded parental leave now. The option would be voluntary, available to both parents, and would not apply to other types of leave, such as taking time off to care for an aging parent, for example. A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the senator plans to file a bill along these lines in the near future.

When interest is factored in, “on a person-for-person basis, the proposal is revenue neutral over the long term,” Andrew Biggs, a Social Security scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, testified at a Senate hearing last week.

“Nobody had thought of this before,” IWF president Carrie Lukas told me. “Social Security was in its own box, but workers are already building up, essentially, credit with the government.”

Lukas, a libertarian, likes this method as a way to offer paid leave without growing the government. She conceded that it would add $8 billion to $10 billion per year to the overall cost of Social Security, but that is “small potatoes” compared to its $950 billion in annual obligations.

Of course, one big problem with borrowing from Social Security is that it could be insolvent by 2034. Congress would still have to fix that, Lukas noted.

Advocates for paid parental leave say parents tend to take more time off after a birth if offered paid or even partially paid leave, which results in better health and attachment for babies. It also reduces recovery time for mothers, more than 30 percent of whom undergo major abdominal surgery in the form of a C-section, and 15 percent of whom struggle with postpartum depression.

U.S. companies must hold a woman’s job for 12 weeks after she has a baby, but are not required to pay her during that time—and that rule only applies to certain kinds of jobs. Sixty percent of the workforce is not eligible for the benefit at all, according to the working group from Brookings. Many who are eligible don’t take the full 12 weeks because they can’t afford it.

The Center for Public Justice, an organization that works on political issues through a “Christian pluralist lens,” recently released a report listing more benefits of paid leave for families. The report points out God’s purposes for rest and family care, as well as the connections between postpartum stress and divorce.

Facebook Facebook Episcopal Bishops at the denomination’s triennial convention in Austin, Texas

Compromise or surrender?

Episcopal Church leaders last week approved a resolution sidestepping the moral convictions of its bishops.

The ruling at the denomination’s triennial convention in Austin, Texas, will allow same-sex couples to marry in their home parish even if their local bishop opposes the union. Couples can use gender-neutral marriage rites in the church where they worship and request “pastoral support” from a bishop in another diocese if their bishop has moral objections. Currently, eight of 101 U.S. Episcopal dioceses do not authorize gender-neutral liturgies: Albany, N.Y.; Florida; Central Florida; Dallas; North Dakota; Springfield, Ill.; Tennessee; and the Virgin Islands.

Supporters of the ruling are celebrating the decision, approved after days of contentious debate, as a compromise: LGBT inclusion without violating conscience. An earlier, stronger resolution would have added same-sex marriage liturgy to the Book of Common Prayer, effectively adopting a new theology.

“This was really a pastoral solution,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island, N.Y., who helped write the resolution, calling it “one that was mindful of trying to hold on to everybody.”

But not everybody agrees.

Before the convention, a group of bishops, predominantly from Latin American dioceses, issued a statement opposing the use of same-sex marriage rites. The group said it forces traditional Episcopalians “to accept social and cultural practices that have no Biblical basis in Christian worship.” —Kiley Crossland

Human Rights Campaign/YouTube Human Rights Campaign/YouTube The Human Rights Campaign projected a message onto the Presidential Palace in Helsinki during the Trump-Putin summit meeting.

Unnecessary pressure

LGBT activists this week used the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki to draw attention to reported human rights abuses against gay and bisexual men in the Russian republic of Chechnya. America’s largest LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, projected scrolling messages onto the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Sunday, such as: “Trump and Putin: Stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya. … The whole world is watching. Silence is deadly.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has not spoken publicly about the reported abuses, but American government officials have been far from silent. After reports surfaced in early 2017 that Russian officials had detained, beaten, and tortured 100 gay men in Chechnya, killing as many as 20, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the persecution.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also released a statement calling the kidnapping, torture, and murder of people based on their sexual orientation a violation of human rights that could not be ignored, and urging Chechen authorities to prosecute and prevent further abuses. “We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation,” Haley said. “When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.” —K.C

Women shifting on same-sex marriage

Americans are continuing a rapid shift toward support of same-sex marriage. A Fox News poll earlier this month found 54 percent of registered voters favored same-sex marriage, up from 48 percent just three years ago. The 2018 rates are nearly the reverse of the same poll 15 years ago: In 2003, 32 percent were in favor and 58 percent opposed.

The shift in the last three years is due to women changing their opinion. Since 2015, support for same-sex marriage among women has grown by 14 percentage points, while support among men is down 2 points, leaving a 19-point gender gap. —K.C.

Romania recognizes same-sex marriage

Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled this week that the country must recognize the marriage of a gay Romanian-American couple, giving the American residency rights. The ruling ends a six-year legal battle that went all the way up to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Last month, the European court ruled that all EU countries—even those, like Romania, that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman—must recognize same-sex spouses. Critics argue the ruling threatens the sovereignty of EU member states and will likely end in the redefinition of marriage for all EU citizens. —K.C.

Laura Finch

Laura is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course.

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