- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

An umbrella group of scholars, therapists and advocates on family issues is exiting a deal to run a federal “healthy marriage” clearinghouse, in part because the project’s Web site was to carry a picture of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

Another of the several reasons for the “divorce” is irreconcilable differences over whether the clearinghouse should cover matters related to same-sex “marriages,” several people familiar with the group’s internal disputes told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.

Putting Mr. and Mrs. Bush’s photo and a presidential statement on the Web site “has the appearance of overtly politicizing the project,” Pamela Monroe, acting president of the National Council on Family Relations, said in a Nov. 2 letter to NCFR members.

NCFR’s board doesn’t want to risk its image and tax-exempt status as an education and policy organization, she said.

The NCFR and its partners had won the $900,000 one-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a National Healthy Marriage Resource Center in September 2004.

HHS now is “exploring what options are available to us,” said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families.

“Clearly, we’re committed to getting the Web site online,” he said. “A lot of good work has been done. We’d like to find a way to preserve that good work and get that Web site online as quickly as possible.”

A presidential picture and statement on the Web site are appropriate, he added.

Family professionals have been watching the NCFR developments closely for months, said the sources, all of whom are involved in marriage issues.

In her letter, Ms. Monroe cited “serious opposition” to the marriage project.

Much of the opposition had to do with the exclusion of same-sex “marriage” from the clearinghouse, several sources said.

“The academic world accepts that there’s nothing wrong with gay and lesbian marriage and it should be celebrated. So if you’re having a marriage project, obviously, you have to include gays and lesbians,” one source said. “But with the Bush administration, there’s no way to do that.”

Other sources said some NCFR members objected to being associated with a “Republican” project; others objected to any project that promotes marriage over other family forms; others said problems arose because of different expectations about how the clearinghouse would function.

Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, said HHS should have no problem replacing NCFR, because its partners include five universities and the nonpartisan research group Child Trends Inc.

These partners “would be perfectly competent to do this without NCFR and I’m sure that there are many other people — universities, think tanks and marriage organizations — who can do this job if NCFR doesn’t want to,” she said.

Child Trends President Kristin Moore was more tentative.

“We entered this because, based on the research, the [marriage clearinghouse] is substantively important for children. And we were delighted to be under the NCFR,” she said. Now, everything is “unfolding in real time and we don’t know.”

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