Illinois Lawmaker Drops Awful Bill That Would Hurt Single Moms After National Outcry

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 26, 2016 8:57PM

The co-sponsor of a state bill that would make it extremely tough to be a single mother by denying birth certificates to children with missing fathers now says he is withdrawing his support, and the other sponsored has motioned to table it.

The bill, HB6064, proposed by downstate Rep. John D. Cavaletto, co-sponsored by Rep. Keith Wheeler from the Western suburbs, would’ve amended the Vital Records Act in such a way that it would make life even more difficult for many single mothers. It said:

“...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, getting financial aid for a child for a single mother would’ve become more difficult—even if the bill's intention is to try to curb state spending on child care subsidies for those who might have a live father who isn't in the picture.

Rep. Keith Wheeler reached out to Chicagoist Friday to clarify some of the intentions of the legislation, as well say he’s dropping his support of the bill. In an emailed statement, Wheeler said:

“The intention of HB 6064 was to provide for the long-term support of hardworking single mothers by strengthening the legal responsibilities of fathers, while also improving the rights of fathers as well as grandparents who provide care for a child in place of a parent. However, the bill as introduced has flaws that would produce unintended consequences. I have therefore chosen to withdraw my support of the bill and thank all my constituents and others who offered feedback on both sides of this issue.”

Rep. John D Cavaletto was not immediately available for comment. Cavaletto filed a motion to table the bill Friday afternoon.

The bill has faced national blowback since we broke the story last week. Jezebel called it "utterly fucked," in a post that began, "Hello and welcome to the year 1903!”:

It is unclear why a woman who has no support from her family or partner should be stripped of state assistance rather than given priority, or why her child should be declared legally non-existent. The only end this bill is meant to achieve, really, is the fiscal abandonment and ostracization of one of the nations most economically vulnerable groups, which is why it’s a very a good thing that there’s a Democratic supermajority in the Illinois House.

Another blogger simply referred to the bill as "trolling assholery" on the part of state Republicans, reasoning that it stands little chance of passing in the statehouse.

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."