Fathers Face Uphill Battle for Equality in Commonwealth
By Curt Lovelace, Massachusetts News, January 16, 2002
The advocates of equal rights for fathers say they have been fighting an uphill battle in Massachusetts. They say that liberal, feminist politicians have long held the power in the legislature and any movement toward equality has been slow and incremental.
Recent events have outraged some advocates, who want more attention given to the problems faced by divorced or separated fathers. Mike Franco, Co-Chair of the Fatherhood Coalition in Massachusetts, on reading in the Beacon Hill Beat that Gov. Jane Swift had selected Patrick Guerriero as her running mate for this years gubernatorial campaign, wrote us to say,
|"But can someone important from our
Massachusetts government tell heterosexual men and fathers, and the families and friends
who support them, when men will be recognized as equal partners in raising
children? When will a man and his child(ren) constitute a family in the eyes of the
state bureaucracy? If someone from on high cannot tell us when or if this will
occur, can Swift and Guerriero truly praise each other for recognizing the importance of
fairness and equality in public policies."
- Mike Franco, Fatherhood Coalition Co-Chairman
"Thats nice. But can someone important from our Massachusetts government tell heterosexual men and fathers, and the families and friends who support them, when men will be recognized as equal partners in raising children? When will a man and his child(ren) constitute a family in the eyes of the state bureaucracy? If someone from on high cannot tell us when or if this will occur, can Swift and Guerriero truly praise each other for recognizing the importance of fairness and equality in public policies."
Franco added, "Our Commonwealth, with the likes of Swift at the helm, is a pathetic hypocrisy, and our legislature and judiciary are light years behind on this issue while numerous other family alternatives gain attention and recognition."
When asked to delineate specific measures hed like to see enacted on behalf of men and their families, Franco said, "We'd like to see the legislature enact shared parenting legislation like S813 from Sen. Stephen Brewer and/or H2546 from Rep. Scott Brown. We also need restraining order reform like S952 or S953, which would protect good, honest and innocent men and fathers and their families from state persecution, political correctness, judicial sophistry, bad laws and people of low character who use the system for vicious and vindictive reasons."
Ned Holstein of Fathers and Families, told us that in light of the Sept. 11 attacks and the deployment of many reservists, he has recently filed a bill called "An Act Relative to Parents Serving in Military Service." The bill was filed by Reps. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) and James Vallee (D-Franklin). Both Brown and Vallee have served as military lawyers.
The bill is intended to deal with the possibility that a military reservist who gets called up will have difficulty meeting child support requirements while receiving military pay lower than his/her civilian norm. Holstein reports that the response to this new effort has been immediate and positive and he expects legislative support for this bill.
Other bills filed on behalf of Fathers and Families in this session include, H1982, which would change the rules of evidence in restraining order hearings. The bill is still in committee. H1983, which Holstein feels has the strongest legislative support, would make it more difficult for custodial parents to move out-of-state without good reason. H1984 would require state legal aid agencies to offer the same service to poor fathers that they offer to poor mothers. It appears to have the bleakest outlook in the legislature. H3985 deals with the accumulation of arrearages in the payment of child support. It still has a chance of passage in the 2002 sitting of the legislature.
The plight of fathers in the hands of unsympathetic courts gained national attention recently when a former Massachusetts man committed suicide on the steps of a courthouse in California.
According to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune on January 11, 2002, "A distraught father struggling with overdue child support obligations and adverse family court decisions committed suicide on the steps of the downtown San Diego courthouse Monday. Angrily waving court documents, 43-year-old Derrick Miller walked up to court personnel at the entrance, said You did this to me, and shot himself in the head."