Single mothers in Illinois breathed a sigh of relief last
week when an utterly insane and punitive bill targeting them and their children
was killed in the state legislature. The proposed law, sponsored by Republican Representatives
John D. Cavaletto and Keith Wheeler, would
have denied birth certificates to all babies born to single women who were either
unwilling or unable to name the child's father. And while Donald Trump didn't write the
law, he certainly deserves some credit for it.
Here's a quote from the bill:
"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."
The result of this absurd throwback to the Dark Ages would have
been to exclude thousands of children from public assistance, education,
healthcare, Social Security, and a hundred other basic rights that require
birth certificates simply because their fathers are absent either by choice or
circumstances. There was no exception provided for rape or incest. And the
implication that no single mother can financially support her own child is
But that's not even the really scary part.
Shame on these Republican men for their failed attack on poor
families. Shame on them for their racist and classist prejudices. Thank
goodness for the national outcry that helped to ensure this ridiculous law will
never see a vote. But don't think for a second that we are safe. Don't think we
won't see another bill like this or one that springs from the same hateful
attitudes. Don't think that it can't happen in my state and that it can't
affect me. Yes, it can. And it probably will. It's just another symptom of what
has been called the "Trump Effect": the radicalization of American right wing politics.
He has given mainstream status and political legitimacy to the radical right wing , allowing sexist and racist hate speech to become a normal part of the political discourse.
Mikki Morrissette, founder of ChoiceMoms.org, a website that
provides information and support for women who choose to become mothers without
a partner, has noticed a disturbing trend.
"When there has been some progress," says Morrissette,
"there is a mobilized effort to combat it in some way. There are more efforts to
legislate the complexion of family in the states."
Morrissette points to the recent victories achieved for LGBT
families: the recognition of same-sex marriage by the US Supreme Court, the
evolution of adoption and surrogacy laws in a number of states. But every
battle won by decency and justice brings a backlash of renewed attacks by bigots
It is not an accident that while we celebrate the changing
national attitudes about what families should look like, Donald Trump is the
frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
xenophobic, and fascist rhetoric has encouraged hate groups that previously only
lurked on the fringes of society. He has given mainstream status and political
legitimacy to the radical right wing , allowing sexist and racist hate speech to
become a normal part of the political discourse. Even the Republican Party is
frantically scrambling to distance itself from Trump, to disavow his most offensive
positions and the hate crimes they are beginning to inspire.
So, what does this have to do with our misguided Republican
lawmakers in Illinois? "The Rachel Maddow Show" producer Steve Benen sums it up
"And therein lies one of the under-appreciated consequences
of Trump's bigotry and extremism: he's pushing the broader debate so far to the
right that truly odious Republican measures start to appear 'moderate' by
This is the "Trump Effect" we will have to face in the
future: that when we defeat Trump—and we will defeat him—Republican
attempts to control, exclude, and punish women and families in this country will
be painted as moderate, even reasonable. We are already living in a society
where disgraces like the Illinois bill are given serious and public consideration.
We can't accept this.
While Representatives John D. Cavaletto and Keith Wheeler
are probably not the ones yelling "Seig Heil!" at Trump rallies, they are no
less dangerous. We should fight them with the same commitment. And we should
never see them as a lesser evil.