Academic journal article Social Justice

No Promotion of Marriage in TANF!

Academic journal article Social Justice

No Promotion of Marriage in TANF!

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

WE OPPOSE THE WELFARE MARRIAGE PROMOTION INITIATIVE BECAUSE IT violates women's right to shape their own intimate lives, diverts valuable resources, and does nothing to address poverty. The TANF marriage promotion initiative:

l. Puts governmental pressure on women's intimate decisions;

2. Fails to support women's family choices and caregiving work;

3. Discriminates against same-sex couples, single parents, and parents who choose not to marry their partners; and increases the chance that TANF recipients will be exposed to religious proselytizing;

4. Perpetuates the myth that single mothers, especially African-American and Latina women, are to blame for poverty in the United States;

5. Shifts needed resources away from women's economic empowerment and codifies the specious claim that marriage itself can solve poverty;

6. Exacerbates the risks and problems of domestic violence;

7. Wastes taxpayers' money on conservative anti-feminist, anti-choice, and anti-lesbian-and-gay organizations that promote marriage.

Poor single mothers should not be subjected to moralistic propaganda in exchange for their benefits. We oppose this measure in solidarity with the poor, in support of poor single mothers and in a feminist, anti-racist and pro-lesbian-and-gay rights spirit.


The following position paper summarizes our views about the welfare marriage promotion measure that will be included in upcoming legislation. We have formulated these arguments as a result of our own activism and our extensive academic research.

We call upon poverty advocates, feminists, civil rights activists, and leading lesbians and gays to work together to defeat the TANF marriage promotion initiative.

We invite Americans from all walks of life to join us in saying no to marriage promotion in welfare law!

The Problem: The 2003 Welfare Bill and the Promotion of Marriage

The major welfare reform bill passed in the mid-1990s, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, set the federal government on the marriage promotion path. It established that the welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), ought to "end the dependence of needy families on government benefits by promoting ... marriage."

TANF law came up for reauthorization in 2002. The Bush administration announced its proposal to spend $300 million each year to promote marriage for TANF recipients in February 2002. The Republicans subsequently introduced legislation in 2002 that would have implemented this proposal. Their TANF reauthorization bill would have earmarked funds for the states to pay for pro-marriage advertising aimed at the general public, and for marriage preparation classes and divorce avoidance classes for TANF recipients. The 2002 bill, however, was one of the many pieces of legislation that died at the end of the session.

The House Republicans introduced and passed a TANF reauthorization bill, HR 4, in one day on February 13, 2003. The bill appears to earmark $100 million per year--a total of $500 million over five years--for the promotion of marriage as a solution to poverty.

In addition, HR 4 conceals the fact that federal spending for the promotion of marriage as a solution to poverty could go much higher.

First, the $100 million in federal funds under the promotion of marriage section are to be provided to the states on a matching grant basis. The states must provide at least 50% of the grant for each marriage promotion project. However, the state can elect to earmark part of its federal block grant money that it receives for its entire TANF program and have those funds counted as its "own" half of the marriage promotion grant. In other words, the state can direct federal TANF block grant funds--money that could have been spent on job training, education, child care, and so on--toward its marriage promotion program grant projects, ask the federal government to count those federal dollars as the state's contribution, and then request the same amount again of federal dollars to "match" the "state" contribution. …

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