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U.S. Supreme Court Decision Ignores Men's Rights

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Yahoo! News / U. S. Newswire
Tuesday, January 15, 2002 / 4:30 AM ET

Op-Ed: U.S. Supreme Court Decision Ignores Men's Rights

Fatherhood Educational Institute Op-Ed: U.S. Supreme Court Decision
Ignores Men's Rights
To: Opinion Editor, National Desk Contact: Jane Spies, 330-534-8948 or
Jeffery M. Leving, 312-807-3990 Web site:
http://www.fatherhood-edu.org

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following op-ed article is
available for editorial use:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Chicago-based attorney Jeffery M. Leving is president
emeritus of the nonprofit Fatherhood Educational Institute (FEI). Leving
is author of the book, Fathers' Rights, and co-author of the Illinois
Joint Custody Law. His efforts helped to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his
father. He currently serves on the Congressional Task Force on Fathers,
Families, & Public Policy.

--- U.S. Supreme Court Decision Ignores Men's Rights By Jeffery M. Leving

The U.S. Supreme Court has ignored not only fathers' rights but men's
rights by refusing on January 7, 2002 to hear the case of Morgan Wise,
who was court ordered to pay child support for another man's children.
These were neither his biological nor adopted children.

In a heartrending story, it was reported that Morgan Wise discovered that
three out of four of his beloved children, whom he had believed were his
offspring for years, were not his biologically. Nevertheless, the judge
ordered Wise to continue paying child support and
discontinued Wise's
visitation with all the children
. Wise appealed and correctly exhausted
all of his legal remedies.

Wise sought relief from the U.S. Supreme Court, to no avail.

Wise's case is as equally significant as the high-profile Oakley case
in which a father, allegedly delinquent in paying child support, was
banned from procreating or face jail time.

The stereotype that the U.S. Supreme Court may promote by its
refusal to hear Morgan Wise's case is that men are valued primarily
as lunch tickets. Bias against men is of no benefit to our society.

Partially as a result of the availability of DNA paternity testing,
men are discovering in alarming numbers that children they
believed were their biological offspring are not. The New York
Times reported that in 28 percent of paternity tests conducted
in 1999, the man being tested was not the biological father.
Nevertheless, many of these men continue to be liable for child
support for other men's children or suffer the consequences of jail.

Too many states adhere to a 500-year-old English common-law
doctrine that a married man is always legally presumed the father
of a child born of the marriage. This is archaic. What would happen
if we applied the same twisted logic to a woman married to a man
who fathered a child from an extramarital affair? Would we proclaim
that because she was married to her husband, she is the legal mother
of the child born of the affair and force her to financially support
another woman's child? We would do no such thing, yet there are
men who are court ordered to pay in the analogous situation.

This doctrine is obsolete and defies common sense, but it was enacted
when the availability of DNA testing did not exist. However, there is
hope. Ohio recently enacted a new law that permits men proven by
DNA testing not to be the father of a child to be released from child
support payments. Colorado, Iowa, and Louisiana have similar laws,
and other states may soon follow suit as more and more paternity cases
reach courtrooms across the nation.

This old English common-law doctrine is simply not fair and is damaging to
all parties. To those proponents of the current adherence to the obsolete
doctrine who say children will be left unsupported if men are not forced
to pay support, I say that the men who should support the children should
be the biological fathers. Making men pay child support for children
proven by DNA testing not to be theirs is not in the best interests of
children and families. Although it may be convenient and expedient for the
courts and child support agencies to say the married dad is the father, it
is not good for the children or the families involved. It also can deprive
children of ever knowing their true biological fathers.

The doctrine allows mom to decide which deepest pocket will be dad.
However, this decision has already been made by biology.

This country should take the lead set by four progressive states and do
away with the obsolete English common-law doctrine. Morgan Wise's U.S.
Supreme Court case could have settled this. With Wise's filing, the court
had the opportunity to correct this controversial and unfair situation for
all states in one fell swoop, but it didn't.

Welfare reform renewal is coming up this year. Fatherhood, marriage,
and child support issues are slated for discussion. In order to have a
legitimate discussion about fathers, we need to examine how society sends
conflicting messages to men. We, as a society, say we want men to
financially and emotionally support their children, yet our laws, courts,
and agencies primarily value fathers as a paycheck. Wise's story
illustrates this misguided attitude and bias. Wise is prohibited from
visiting his biological child, yet is ordered to support another man's
children.

Men love their children every bit as much as mothers do, and children
need both parents. I've seen fathers fight valiantly through the courts
for years, at great monetary and emotional expense, just to be in their
children's lives. Unfortunately, there are those who believe men are not
entitled to the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms that most Americans
take for granted.

While practicing criminal law as a young lawyer, I have witnessed burglars
and drug dealers walk out of court with probation or some other slap on
the wrist. In contrast, many fathers fighting in court often have had the
book thrown at them and have ended up in jail. Criminal defendants may
have more protections than some fathers in civil cases.

The only recourse left now for men who find themselves in Wise's situation
is to continue to fight for their civil rights through the courts and try
to change the paternity laws state by state as they so wisely did in Ohio.
It is hoped that when a paternity fraud case reaches the U. S. Supreme
Court in the future, it will be heard. It is time that our courts and
institutions acknowledge the importance and rights of fathers and all men.
This is what is truly in the best interests of children and families.

Web site:
http://www.fatherhood-edu.org

--- BACKGROUND:

Chicago-based Attorney Jeffery M. Leving is President Emeritus of the
nonprofit, Fatherhood Educational Institute (FEI). Leving is a leading
national spokesperson on gender issues and frequent media guest whose most
recent appearances include CNN's "Talk Back Live" and Fox News Channel's
"The O'Reilly Factor." Attorney Leving recently accepted an appointment
from U.S. Congressman Danny Davis to serve as a member of the newly
created Congressional Task Force on Fathers, Families, and Public Policy.
In efforts to help reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father, Leving filed an
Amicus ("Friend of the Court") brief in the Elian Gonzalez case with the
INS prior to his representation of Manuel Gonzalez in Federal Court in
Florida. He met with Elian's grandmothers for an extended period of time
when they were in Washington, D.C. Jeffery M. Leving, heads a team of
litigators seeking out protection for fathers' civil rights throughout the
United States.

KEYWORDS:  CHILDREN, LAW, ILLINOIS

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