CULTURE DIGEST: Rice’s pro-gay comments upset conservatives; ‘gay-friendly’ campuses praised; ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Conservative Christians are upset over comments made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a State Department ceremony to install Mark Dybul, an open homosexual, as the nation’s new global AIDS coordinator.

With first lady Laura Bush standing with her Oct. 10, Rice welcomed Dybul’s family -- which she introduced as his “partner,” Jason Claire, and his “mother-in-law,” Claire’s mother. As Dybul was sworn in, Claire held the Bible.

Several conservatives spoke against the appointment of a homosexual man to an ambassador-level role of stopping the spread of AIDS, and many objected to the “mother-in-law” reference.

“That’s astonishing that that fact would be underscored, highlighted by the Secretary of State,” Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action said. “This is very provocative and very disappointing.”

Rice’s chief of staff called to tell Minnery it was a mix-up and someone was supposed to check on the mother-in-law status but didn’t.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, doesn’t believe it was a mistake because “the U.S. State Department is in the business of diplomacy and avoiding faux pas.” He added in his Oct. 16 Washington Update e-mail that in the “world of protocol, verbal miscues are anathema.”

“The question arises, what guidelines do the State Department and the White House follow? Neither federal law (the Defense of Marriage Act) nor District of Columbia law recognizes a marriage between Mr. Dybul and his partner,” Perkins said, adding that Rice’s comment was both “morally provocative” and “linguistically improper.”

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at FRC, said Rice’s comments were “profoundly offensive,” especially considering the Bush administration’s support of a federal marriage amendment to protect traditional marriage. He also objected to having a homosexual implement Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” Sprigg said.... If we are not willing to say that men should not engage in sex with other men, then we are really not willing to tackle the root causes of the AIDS problem.”

POPULATION TRENDS IN MARRIAGE, PARENTING EXAMINED -- As the U.S. population reached the 300 million mark, The New York Times presented an analysis of some current trends in marriage and parenting.

The Times examined the American Community Survey, released by the Census Bureau in October, and noted that married couples are now a minority. In 2005, 49.7 percent of America’s 111.1 million households were made up of married couples, compared to 52 percent five years earlier.

“The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry,” The Times said Oct. 15. “But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners.”

In its survey, the Census Bureau did not ask people to disclose their sexual orientation, but it distinguished partners from roommates by defining partner as “an adult who is unrelated to the householder, but shares living quarters and has a close personal relationship with the householder.”

Based on that definition, the bureau said 5.2 million couples, or a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. Another 413,000 households were male couples and 363,000 were female couples, The Times reported. Since 2000, respondents who were unmarried opposite sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.

By historical comparison, in 1930 married couples accounted for 84 percent of households, The Times noted.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Maryland based on an analysis of thousands of personal diaries found that mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago despite more women in the workplace now.

Researchers found that women still do twice as much housework and childcare as men in two-parent families, but the amount of childcare and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased in recent decades, The Times said Oct. 17.

Only about 30 percent of children now live in families where the father works outside the home and the mother stays home to care for the children, the study found, but married and single parents spend more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children now than parents did 40 years ago.

Parents seem to be finding the extra time, The Times said, by cooking less, exercising less, skipping personal relaxation time and including children in their own free-time activities more than in the past.

“It indicates that parents, especially mothers, instinctively know that the line promoted by social scientists in the 1960’s and 70’s -- that professional child care can provide all the things that maternal care can -- is not correct,” Gary Bauer, president of American Values, told The Times. “Mothers made adjustments in their own lives to ensure that, even with jobs outside the home, they provide what only mothers can provide.”

‘GAY-FRIENDLY’ CAMPUSES PRAISED -- Now students searching for the right place to earn a college education can add another book to their stack of resources. “The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students” profiles 100 of the nation’s campuses best suited for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Bruce Steele, the book’s editor, said at least half of all homosexual Americans are revealing their sexual orientation before college and students have become more outspoken about their identity. There are more than 3,000 “Gay-Straight Alliances,” or clubs promoting homosexuality, in U.S. high schools, The New York Times reported.

As homosexual students will use the glossy yellow guide to find a campus that will accept their sexual behavior best, parents who are concerned about the level of homosexual promotion at a university their child is considering might take note of the list generated in the book.

The Advocate guide does not rank the schools but offers a Gay Point Average, which assigns a score of up to 20 points based on a school’s policies, programs and practices affecting homosexual students, The Times said. The guide is based largely on student perspectives.

Among the top schools for acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle are the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California with a perfect score of 20 points. American University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the University of Oregon and the University of Puget Sound all scored a 19.

Duke University, Indiana University, Oberlin College, Stanford University, Tufts University, the University of California-Santa Cruz and the University of Michigan scored an 18 in the guide, and New York University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst scored a 17.

JUSTICE SCALIA SPEAKS AT ACLU MEETING -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience of 1,500 people at the American Civil Liberties Union’s annual meeting Oct. 15 that they don’t really want the Constitution to adapt to meet the needs of contemporary society.

“If you fall in love with an evolving Constitution, do not think that it will evolve in only one direction,” Scalia said, warning that the justices could become more conservative in time and rule consistently against liberal views held by the ACLU.

A 1986 Ronald Reagan appointee, Scalia believes the Constitution should be interpreted in its 18th-century context, USA Today noted, and he enjoys speaking to groups that oppose his views because “part of my charm is telling people what they don’t like to hear.”

“On controversial issues on stuff like homosexual rights, abortion, we debate with each other and persuade each other and vote on it either through representatives or a constitutional amendment,” Scalia said, according to the Associated Press. “Whether it's good or bad is not my job. My job is simply to say if those things you find desirable are contained in the Constitution.”