Monday, February 07, 2005

A Virginia Family Bill of Rights

An article from Stephen Baskerville published in the Washington Times.

Forum: A Virginia Family Bill of Rights

Bold legislation is being introduced that will put the Commonwealth of Virginia on the cutting edge of the worldwide campaign to reverse the family's seemingly inexorable decline.

Many states have now passed laws or constitutional amendments preserving marriage as one man and one woman, and more are set to follow. But Virginia is poised to go further.

Riding the momentum from the November election and the huge public opposition to same-sex "marriage," Delegate Kathy Byron and other legislators have introduced a "Family Bill of Rights." This ambitious bill will check not only the homosexual challenge to marriage, but also the huge erosion of parental rights. Stronger still, state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli has offered a bill to begin countering the "no-fault" divorce epidemic.

Together, these measures would give Virginia the strongest family-protection provisions in the nation. Moreover, they would do so by protecting rather than limiting citizens' rights.

Why is this necessary? Because same-sex "marriage" is not only a threat to the marriage and the family. It may not even be the most serious. As Michael McManus of Marriage Savers points out, "Divorce is a far more grievous blow to marriage than today's challenge by gays.

"Indeed, it is very likely same-sex "marriage" would not even be an issue were it not for the severe weakening of marriage that has already occurred due to divorce and out-of-wedlock births. "Commentators miss the point when they oppose homosexual marriage on the grounds that it would undermine traditional understandings of marriage," writes Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University. "It is only because traditional understandings of marriage have already been severely undermined that homosexuals are now laying claim to it."

Virginia's initiative will for the first time address the underlying, long-term causes of marriage decline and family dissolution, of which same-sex "marriage" is only the latest symptom. While it cannot rectify cultural pressures, it does directly confront the legal mechanisms that allow
government officials to forcibly destroy families, often against the wishes of family members.

Many have commented on how many voters in this election cast their ballots on the basis of "moral values." Yet it isn't clear same-sex "marriage" was all the voters had in mind.

A 1999 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 78 percent of Americans regard the high divorce rate as a serious problem, and a Time/CNN poll found 61 percent believe it should be harder for married couples with young children to divorce.

Equally important to preserving the marital bond is protecting the bond between parents and their children, increasingly threatened by government:Home-schoolers are harassed. Parents are pressured to put their children on dangerous psychotropic drugs under threat of child-abuse charges. Others face obviously trumped-up charges of child abuse and risk losing their children for exercising ordinary parental discipline, for poverty or during divorce proceedings.

With all these mechanisms available for government to sink its talons into children, hardly a family in America is safe. And parents are becoming an active political force.

The gap between parents and childless voters was one of the widest in the election and was especially marked for fathers. According to Gary Andres in The Washington Times, "Men with children favored the president on the question of agreement on cultural direction by nearly 60 percentage points (Bush 77, Kerry 18, while men without kids slightly favored John Kerry.)

"Same-sex "marriage" is not the only area of family policy where upheavals occur. Bill Cosby's celebrated remarks last summer on parenthood and the family has placed a once-taboo subject at the top of the African-American agenda.

And another election result has not received the attention it deserves: In ultra-liberal Massachusetts, a whopping 85 percent of voters defied the strident opposition of feminists and lawyers to approve resolutions giving fathers equality in custody decisions. This measure could drastically reduce Massachusetts' divorce rate and curtail the power of the divorce industry, including judges like Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Marshall. In Britain and Australia, fathers are literally marching in the streets over child custody.

We stand today on the brink of an upheaval of civilizational proportions. Same-sex "marriage" does not begin to describe the possible dimensions of disaster.

On the other hand, the determination of parents could develop into a worldwide revolt against the almost totalitarian power government now assumes over families.

STEPHEN BASKERVILLE President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. Mr. Baskerville is a professor of political science at Howard University.

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