HR 738: Truth Prevails In Georgia Legislature

Blogging While Blue

As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, I have been receiving emails from Georgians concerned about government's assault on their parental rights, asking me to support House Resolution (HR) 738, which calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to cure this grave problem.

As a parent and legislator, I wanted to make sure that I was well-informed, so I read the resolution, which is available here.

The resolution makes two key points. The first is that the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville (2000) produced six different opinions on the nature and enforceability of parental rights under the U.S. Constitution. As a result, this decision "has created confusion and ambiguity about the fundamental nature of parental rights in the laws and society of the several states." Oddly, this was the first I'd heard of this crisis.

The second problem is that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child may soon be considered for ratification and it would,[hyperbole follows], end the world as we know it.

Conscientious legislator that I try to be, I read both the Troxel case and the Convention. This is what I found: the Troxel case does not undermine the rights of parents or create confusion and ambiguity. Instead, it is a slam-dunk decision in favor of parental rights. In fact, it held that a parent's rights were so strong and fundamental that it permitted a mother to limit the visitation of her daughters' grandparents. The grandparents sought visitation rights with their granddaughters after their son, who was the father of the two girls, committed suicide. In the plurality opinion, Justice O'Connor cites precedent after precedent concerning the fundamental rights of parents. For example, she wrote, "The fundamental interest at issue in this case - the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children - is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court."

I kept looking for the confusion and ambiguity in the case but never found it. I then turned to the Convention. As background, the entire world, except the U.S. and Somalia, has ratified the Convention. The U.S. played a role in its drafting and is a signatory. After reading the Convention, I again found myself wondering what was so problematic. Among other things, it requires that "State Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents." That makes sense to me.

HR 783 was recently presented before the House Children and Youth Committee. I looked forward to asking about the Troxel case and the Convention because I wanted to learn what I had missed during my reading that is causing so much consternation.

Shortly after the presentation by those in favor of the resolution, two handouts were distributed to Committee members. The first was titled, "Why We Need the Parental Rights Amendment," and the second was, "The Domestic Threat to Parental Rights." Rather dire, don't you think?

I found it difficult to believe what I was reading. The Domestic Threat document states that only Justice Thomas held that parental rights were a fundamental right. But he wrote the following in his decision: "Consequently, I agree with the plurality that this Court's recognition of a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children resolves this case." Clearly, Justice Thomas was not the only Justice to find that parental rights are fundamental, and he says so himself.

After the presentation, I was able to ask questions. I asked if the supporters could point me to the section in the Troxel decision that creates confusion and ambiguity about the fundamental nature of parental rights. No one could point me to anything.

When I informed the resolution's supporters that I had read the Troxel case and found it to be a strong affirmation of parental rights, there was no response. I was waiting for them to tell me I was wrong and to show me where to look, but that did not happen. Again, I was left scratching my head (figuratively, of course).

I then asked if they could point me to the problematic articles in the Convention. I had a copy of the Convention with me and stood ready to look at whatever article they directed me to read. Again, the supporters could not name a single problematic article.

Ultimately, the resolution was tabled. Nonetheless, some members of the committee voted against the motion to table and instead wanted to pass the resolution - even though not a single shred of testimony or evidence was presented to support the purported reasons for the resolution! It is worth repeating that the resolution calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This is how low some folks will go in the current political environment. Without any basis, the supporters of the bill were eager to get people scared that the federal government and the UN were plotting to take away parental rights. A conservative group which I will not name because it does not deserve any attention pushed this measure.

From my vantage point, I want Georgia to focus on the real challenges before us. Let's stop wasting time, let's be truthful, and let's get to work.

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