Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Parental Rights- A Tale of Two Measures logo
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March 13, 2013
A Tale of Two Measures
Two state measures are facing important votes this week, and they provide the perfect opportunity to clear up a few things about what is going on in the states.

The first measure is Oklahoma’s HB1384, the Parents’ Bill of Rights bill. It passed the Human Services Committee on Feb. 20 and now faces a floor vote in the Oklahoma House. If it passes, it will go to the Senate, where it will again be assigned to a committee before it can go to the floor. (Oklahomans can read the current alert here.)

The second measure is Nebraska’s LR42, a legislative resolution that would call on the U.S. Congress to adopt the Parental Rights Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. LR42 faces a hearing in the unicameral Judiciary Committee on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (Nebraskans can read the current alert here.)

So, how exactly does a bill like HB1384 differ from a resolution like LR42? What is our plan for using these measures in the states?

A Bill Creates Law
A bill such as Oklahoma’s proposed Parents’ Bill of Rights is intended to make law. It has a direct and binding effect within the state that passes it. Generally, the parental rights statutes we are championing in various states take the legal standard that has been established by the courts, and add it to the state code, or written laws. This preserves the standard so that it will not erode under future courts or legislatures, but it does so without disrupting the legal balance already in place. States continue to exercise jurisdiction over matters of child abuse or neglect, for instance, but the fundamental right of parents to direct their child’s upbringing is secured.

Oklahoma’s bill will also preserve this balance, but it is a more involved statute than for instance the one passed in Virginia last month. HB1384 seeks to establish the rights of parents in a number of specific areas impacting children. Boiled down, it would still equate to a preservation of fundamental parental rights; it just involves greater detail.

If it passes, HB1384 will become binding law on every court in Oklahoma. However, even HB1384 is not sufficient to protect parents and children if the U.S. Senate chooses to adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Once ratified, those treaties would become “the supreme law of the land.... anything in the law or constitution of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

So why pass it? Because the law would provide clarity and security for families in the courts until such time as one of these treaties is adopted.

A Resolution Impacts Congress
On the other hand, Nebraska’s LR42 doesn’t make any state law at all. Rather, it constitutes a request from the government of Nebraska to the government of the United States: send us the Parental Rights Amendment so that we and our sister states can ratify it.

Resolutions like LR42 have already been adopted in Louisiana, South Dakota, Florida, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, and though they have no legal effect, they have an impact on the U.S. Congress.

First, the Congressmen and Senators who represent that state in Washington, D.C., are encouraged to support the aim of the resolution. Second, both grassroots supporters and other members of Congress can see the support spread across the country.

Finally, enough resolutions could ultimately put Congress over a barrel. While 6 or 7 may not seem significant, if we start to reach 28 or 30 resolutions, Congress will be under a lot of pressure to propose the amendment. That’s because the Constitution allows two methods of amendment. The first is for 2/3 of each house of Congress to pass the amendment, then to send it to the states for ratification. (Ratification requires the approval of 38 states.)

The second way is for 2/3 of the state legislatures – that’s 33 states – to apply to Congress for a convention to propose an amendment. If 30 or more states have called on Congress to propose the amendment, it becomes clear that those same states could decide to call for a convention. The handwriting would be on the wall, so to speak, so Congress may as well pass the amendment along. (Ratification still requires 38 states.)

Planning Our Efforts
Initially, we were working on resolutions at the state level to engage grassroots volunteers and involve the state legislatures. Recently, though, we have come to realize that parental rights in America may or may not have the time to wait for passage of the amendment. Statutes provide real legal protection right now, and until we get the Amendment adopted.

That’s why some states have tried one method and others another. Virginia’s House of Delegates adopted a resolution 3 years ago (which died in the Senate), but the full legislature just passed a parental rights statute earlier this year. Resolutions are currently being considered in Texas and Mississippi as well as in Nebraska, while Oklahoma is joined by Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas in attempting to secure legislation this session. Other state efforts will soon be getting under way, too, while we hope to engage many other states next year.

Action Items
If you live in Nebraska or Oklahoma, please see the respective alerts and take action in your state this week.

If your state is otherwise listed in this email, be prepared to take action when an alert comes your way. Decide now that when you receive that message, you will take the time to act.

Finally, if you would like to help with the launching and championing of a resolution or a statute in your state, please email David and let him know of your interest.

And no matter what state you live in, your generous donation* today will help support and continue our efforts in every state until parental rights – and the children they protect – are secured throughout the United States.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

* Because is a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, we regret that donations cannot be deductible for income tax purposes.
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