New legislation filed in Springfield could make it extremely tough to be a single mother.
If a father is not listed on a birth certificate to a newborn child, the bill says a birth certificate would not be issued for that child and any hopes of receiving financial assistance, if needed, would be dashed. The bill does this by amending the Vital Records Act. You may be shocked to hear that HB6064, filed last week, is being sponsored by two white Republican men: Rep. John D. Cavaletto of Salem (which is a couple hours outside St. Louis), and Keith Wheeler, who represents the western ‘burbs.
Here’s a snippet from the proposed legislation:
“Provides that if the unmarried mother cannot or refuses to name the child’s father, either a father must be conclusively established by DNA evidence or, within 30 days after birth, another family member who will financially provide for the child must be named, in court, on the birth certificate. Provides that absent DNA evidence or a family member’s name, a birth certificate will not be issued and the mother will be ineligible for financial aid from the State for support of the child.”
In other words, despite this being the year 2016, some lawmakers feel a single mother has to prove she’s somehow deserving of state aid.
If this sounds slightly familiar, it may be because it echoes some racist and classist remarks by another republican legislator, State Rep. Jeanne Ives. In September of last year, there was a floor debate in the House that ultimately killed a bill that would’ve restored subsidies lost due to the budget impasse. During this debate, Ives said:
“You need to have verifiable need. You better know who the daddy is and whether or not he can afford that child and whether or not the taxpayers should be funding that or if there’s actual child support he can provide.”
While it’s entirely possible the legislation may never make it out of the rules committee, and would more than likely die due to the Democratic supermajority in the House, it’s still troublesome. “This is a punitive and outrageous bill that would have a hugely negative impact on those most likely in need of safety net programs and support,” said Ed Yohnka of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union.
We reached out to co-Sponsor Rep. Keith Wheeler, who did not return a request for comment.
Updated 3:20 p.m.: The story has been updated to reflect that Cavaletto has filed a motion to table the bill.
Update 4:20 p.m. :
Representative Keith Wheeler got back to Chicagoist with some more details on his relationship to the legislation.
In an email, Wheeler said he wanted to make it clear he did not propose the legislation, but asked “to co-sponsor a bill that would hold fathers more accountable for their children in order to provide long-term and better support for the child,” a concept he said he believes “still has merit,” adding:
“If, in the future, I were to be involved in related legislation, I would first reach out to a much wider group of interested parties to determine what potential solutions exist that hold fathers accountable and provide appropriate support for children.”
As to the flaws he saw in the bill that ultimately led him to pull his support, Wheeler said the now-abandoned legislation “didn’t address several real-world scenarios and wasn’t going to have the intended effect of getting the support from fathers (deadbeat dads) to the single mothers and, naturally, the children.”
We also asked him about the responses he received from his constituents. Wheeler said while he received responses both in favor and opposed, there were definitely more people opposed to the bill. He also said that he received some harsh personal criticism, some from outside the state of Illinois:
“Unfortunately, some of the opposition messages – especially those from outside of the district I represent and even the State of Illinois – were unnecessarily mean, crude and personal. Rather than attacking me as a person and even as a parent, it resonates with legislators, and is more likely to get a response, to just criticize the legislation. Oftentimes, there is more to the story than meets the eye.”