A controversial new bill is making its way through both houses of Congress that would require older men to view sonogram photos, grade school class pictures, and birthday video footage of women half their age with whom they wish to engage in sexual intercourse. The Family Values Law, as it's called, is supported by a variety of activist groups, but it is bitterly opposed by a coalition of state senators, church leaders, and corporate CEOs.
"These kinds of relationships are tearing up families," says Sharon Schell, of the Decency Research Council. "A 65 year-old minister or presidential candidate who decides to leave his wife of twenty years to move in with a college student who is actually younger than his three grown children is destroying the foundation of this country. We want to send a message to these preachers and politicians that families matter."
"Before you make a decision that you could regret for the rest of your life you should see photos of your prospective sexual partner in the womb in 1991," Schell adds. But many sharply disagree.
"Trading a spouse for someone younger and hotter is one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching choices I ever had to make," says one state delegate who asked not to be identified. "But this new law will add to my anguish. It's mean-spirited and it violates my rights to see Bronwyn having an accident in her girl scout outfit. I thought that would have been really, really exciting. But it is not."
"This not a choice," Schell replies these arguments. "It's a life. The life of a cocktail hostess, and also an angry ex-wife and her lawyer. And kids, who usually have families of their own. Don't these people understand that other lives are affected by their behavior?"
Political insiders speculate wildly on whether the bill will ever make it out of Congress. On one hand, many of the most powerful legislators in both the House and Senate will be directly affected. But the bill is gaining widespread grassroots support that makes it difficult to oppose. Religious figures -- many of whom are elderly men themselves -- are staging a massive write-in campaign against it, arguing that Scripture and church traditions don't prohibit an old man betraying his marriage vows and moving in with his massage therapist.
"This law would discriminate against people like us," says the pastor of a Norfolk-area megachurch who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of pending legal issues. "God wants everybody -- all straight, elderly, rich men -- to be happy. That message is throughout the Bible."
"He's right," admits Schell. "Then again, there's some really sick crap in that book."
In Memoriam - The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, priest and peace activist.