Orlando Sentinel

Fathers do count, except with NOW

By Kathleen Parker
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on October 27, 1999.

You no longer have to read between the lines to divine the National Organization for Women's agenda. In a way, it seems refreshingly simple: no men.

That's the only conclusion one can draw upon reviewing NOW's objections to a federal proposal dubbed the Fathers Count bill (HR 3073).

The bill isn't exactly a mainstream father's dream. Mostly, the bill creates programs to help unem-
ployed fathers find jobs so they can produce child support for their welfare progeny. In fact, men's rights activists aren't wild about the bill, saying that it addresses only the financial responsibilities of fathers while ignoring more pressing (child access) concerns of fathers disenfranchised by courts that favor mothers.

Still, on Planet Deadbeat, it's better than nothing.

But NOW really doesn't like the bill because, well, it seems helpful to men. The fact that helping men might result ultimately in helping women and children is irrelevant. Anything that purports to help men is suspect. In the case of the Fathers Count bill, NOW claims that it's unconstitutional.

Martha F. Davis, legal director for NOW's Legal Defense and Education Fund, wrote the following to U.S. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, chairman of the subcommittee on Human Resources:

"Because they tie the federal benefits available under the act to gender, these provisions violate the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution."

At NOW's insistence, language has been added to the Fathers Count bill so that mothers, expectant mothers and married mothers are eligible for benefits on the same basis as fathers, expectant fathers and married fathers. Even so, NOW is challenging the bill on its gender constitutionality.

One could say NOW just wants to advance equality, right? But one would be wrong. When it comes to legislation aimed only at helping women, NOW forgets everything it knows about the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

For example, NOW issued no such protest over the grant application kit for victim services under the Violence Against Women Act Fund, which states: "A VAWA-funded project may not use VAWA funds or matching funds for projects that focus on children or men." Selective constitutionality at its shameless best.

Then, last week -- in an astonishing show of its true colors -- NOW began protesting Vice President Gore's support of the Fathers Count bill, pointing out that the bill would funnel $150 million to "local and national organizations, many of them likely to be fathers' rights groups and right-wing religious organizations."

In an e-mail alert, NOW urged its members to lobby Gore to oppose the bill because the act would give money to groups that: "promote marriage; enhance relationship skills; teach how to control aggressive behavior; promote successful parenting; train parents in money management; encourage regular visitation between fathers and children; help fathers and their families avoid or leave welfare; and improve fathers' economic status" by providing work services and education.

Well, who would want such a thing? Successful marriage, responsible parenting, financial independence? What we clearly need in this country are more bad marriages, more bad parenting, more welfare families.

You have to wonder why anyone would fault a government program that promotes the concept of people looking after their own families, trying to get along. Then you remember what they say: Follow the money.

NOW's livelihood depends on the perception of women as victims. Strengthening families and reinstating fatherhood threatens that status.

Kathleen Parker, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, welcomes your comments. Write to her at The Orlando Sentinel, MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833. E-mail:

[Posted 10/26/1999 11:03 PM EST]

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