Christian Action League
HB 590, legislation that would have commissioned a study of Grandparent’s visitation rights failed in the House Judiciary III Committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes), the bill’s primary sponsor, had told members of the House Judiciary III Committee in a previous meeting that she realized grandparents’ rights were not a new issue and that studies had been done and unsuccessful bills filed. Nonetheless, she said it was her constituents’ concerns that had led her to propose the legislation.
After Randleman gave a brief description of the bill on Wednesday, Chairman, Rep. Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson), allowed for a thorough discussion of the measure. But except for a brief inquiry on a previous Supreme Court ruling on Grandparent’s visitation rights, committee members showed little interest for the bill’s passage.
Only one person from the audience spoke in favor of the bill. Bill Wilson, a lobbyist for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), argued it had been 12 years since the last study and many people in North Carolina wanted to revisit the issue.
Nevertheless, Wilson’s contentions were countered by those politically from the right and left who made passionate arguments against any broadening of Grandparent’s visitation rights.
Paula Wolf of the North Carolina National Organization for Women argued it was wrong for the State to interfere with the way parents chose to raise their children. She added that whenever the National Organization for Women, the North Carolina Family Policy Council and the Christian Action League all agree on a measure it’s “a remarkable occurrence.”
Kathy Hartkoph, a parent of two daughters, explained that she simply spoke as a concerned mother. Hartkoph said she was present when the first study on Grandparent’s visitation rights took place in 1997. She said the study turned into a very emotional event where many public statements were made between family members that still haven’t healed to this day. She urged the committee not to vote for another study that would likely result in the same scenario and only produce “legislation that was bound to fail.”
Jeri Royall, representing the North Carolina Family Policy Council, noted a 1995 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling that stated a parent’s right is paramount to the “custody, care, and nurture of their children,” which also includes their right to decide with whom their child will associate. He said broadening Grandparents rights to petition the court for visitation with a grandchild over the parental objections of an intact family would violate a fundamental human right.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League shared a heart-wrenching personal story regarding his own Grandson who was born out of wedlock. Rev. Creech said that he would likely never see his grandson again if the boy’s father, his own son, were to die. “But knowing the family dynamics of the mother, if she died (God forbid), I believe my son would be justified if he deemed it inappropriate for the grandmother on the mother’s side to visit with the child,” he argued. Rev. Creech said he shared the very personal story in the hope it might provide light on the irresolvable dilemma HB 590 seeks to address.
“It doesn’t matter how much we study this issue of grandparent’s rights,” Rev. Creech admonished. “There is no way to satisfy every Grandparent’s desire without somehow interfering with some parent’s God-given, Constitutional right, for better or for worse, to raise their child and to determine with whom he or she associates. It seems that where we might tie up one broken end of this issue, we untie on the other end. Our current statutes are sufficient. And we should understand that no matter what more on this matter we may seek to do…somebody on one side will weep and the children will likely pay the highest price…this legislation will only encourage an endless search for a resolution to problems that cannot possibly be solved by legislation.”
After receiving an unfavorable report, the bill was never reported out of committee.