While everyone's attention has been focused on the Illinois legislature's halting efforts to repair the state's financial mess, those who wish to dismantle the traditional family and sexual mores are busy working in the shadows.
They're pushing bills through the legislature that would:
• Weaken the teaching of the time-honored idea of "waiting until marriage" in school sex-education courses.
• Require that school authorities be in the dark about any children with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.
• Boot some biological fathers out of their children's lives.
Sponsored by Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, D-Chicago, House Bill 2675 sets new state standards for teaching sex education in grades six through 12 that are designed to update supposedly obsolete notions of appropriate sexual behavior for children as young as 11.
Gone from the law's language is "abstinence is the expected norm." No longer does it require the discussion of the "emotional and psychological consequences" of preadolescent and adolescent sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
In course material, abstinence until marriage is demoted to equal standing with teaching children how to use condoms and contraceptives. Abstinence now is merely a "responsible and positive decision." Who can argue with that, except when it posits that sexual intercourse is just another choice for children.
The bill passed the House April 17, on a 66-52 vote, and, having been recommended by the Senate Executive Committee, awaits a floor vote.
House Bill 61 eliminates the current requirement that school principals be notified when pupils are reported to be HIV-positive. It's a common sense requirement that enables responsible people to take compassionate steps to protect the pupil as well as staff and other students.
But, advocates of the change insist the requirement isn't needed because no student in America has ever become infected in school by another student, although no such national database exists that I can find. Advocates also say eliminating the requirement protects the pupil from becoming stigmatized, although I'm not aware that there's evidence of a wave of (or any) instances of a principal violating confidentiality rules.
This is a change in the law that accomplishes nothing, motivated purely by an ideology that's as outdated as the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic first broke out. That ideology is based on the premise that schools are filled with homophobes waiting to punish people with HIV/AIDS.
Finally, the Illinois Parentage Act would be updated to settle questions of parental rights of unmarried couples who have children. Today's culture has created many complicated situations not covered by law. Consider the (real) case of a female-to-male transsexual's claim of fatherhood that was denied by an Illinois court.
One of the updates would presume a woman to be a parent when her partner gives birth to a child during a same-sex marriage, civil union or a "substantially similar legal relationship" with the birth mother. The natural father, thus, would not enjoy a presumption of fatherhood, and would have to sue for the recognition. (We're not talking here about children conceived by sperm or egg donation.)
Sharee S. Langenstein, a downstate lawyer representing two conservative groups, Family-PAC and Eagle Forum, said the judge, in assigning parentage, is not prohibited from deciding that the child can have three parents. A novel, but not an astonishing idea considering today's bollixed culture.
Under the change, Langenstein said, if the biological mother and father want to place the child up for adoption, the same-sex partner could stop or at least hold up the process. "The bill creates parental rights based on contract, not on biology," she said in an email. "We should not create parents based on policy, we should recognize them based on biology." She said the bill codifies the negative effects of same-sex marriage with regard to parenting.
Lawyers and others interested in divorce, parentage and similar laws have spent years crafting comprehensive reform legislation, certainly understandable in light of cultural change that seems willing to torpedo anything that encompasses the idea of tradition. The legislation, House Bill 1243, after many twists and turns, has landed back in the House Executive Committee, sometimes considered to be the legislature's Death Row.
Not all the provisions in the bills are equally unwise or despicable as the provisions I've highlighted, but the ease with which some would want to scrub reasonable laws out of existence should be troubling.
Dennis Byrne, a Chicago writer, blogs in the Barbershop on chicagonow.com.