A WPRI article by Melanie DaSilva about Rhode Island’s newly passed “Uniform Parentage Act” is advocacy, not journalism. To be fair, DaSilva isn’t alone in putting aside objectivity when it comes to social issues, but the article is illustrative from the first sentence:
The legislation that updates the state’s 40-year-old law to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage is heading to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s desk.
That is an advocate’s description of the legislative intent, and it might be passable as reportage if the article did anything more fair than reinforce the advocates’ position. Not a single word of hesitation about the legislation appears in the article, because as with everything in young progressives’ worldview, the thing that makes this newsworthy is the simultaneous sense of controversy and the denial that controversy is possible. It’s a hero story about advancing justice with the villain simply assumed away.
Readers may be meant to understand that there must be some illogical, bigoted reason that this “update” has not passed until now, but today’s journalists wouldn’t know where to look for somebody to articulate it, and they’d probably think the antagonists’ views inadmissible to public discourse if they could find them. Consequently, the news is actually propaganda with talking points meant to make the legislation sound good without any explanatory substance. For example:
The bill also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.
What are “clear standards”? The law that this is replacing was about filling the spots of “mother,” who is known by fact of the birth, and “father.” With that clear baseline removed, there are no boundaries, and the legislation does not provide any. An individual can gain parental rights by signing “acknowledgements of parentage” if:
- It is the birth mother (having not signed her rights away as a “gestational carrier”).
- He or she is another genetic parent.
- He or she was an intended parent under an assisted reproduction agreement (that may or may not be limited to two).
- He or she is a “presumed parent,” which could be by marriage or simply by living in the household for two years and being acknowledged by “another parent.”
So, voluntarily, groups can arrange to all be parents to a child. When disagreements arise and a court steps in, the section titled “adjudicating competing claims of parentage” (15-8.1-206) also doesn’t state how many “parents” a child can have. Subsection 4 says the judge shall base decisions in part on “the harm to the child if the relationship between the child and each individual is not recognized,” which implies the possibility of multiple, but is deliberately vague.
I say “deliberately” because the original draft of the legislation explicitly stated that there could be more than two “parents.” Presumably, that was too obvious for politicians to risk, but taking that language out does not mean our society will guarantee our children the wisdom of ages, that children have two parents. It just means the legislators are leaving fundamental questions about our civilization to judges’ discretion.
So, “clear standards” mean judges will decide based on their own sense and values whether a child can have three or more parents. Indeed, even though lawmakers removed the obvious language from the bill, it remains clear that group parentage is still permitted. The text refers repeatedly to “another parent of the child,” rather than “the parent” or “the other parent.” It also states that “the adjudication of an individual as a de facto parent under this chapter does not disestablish the parentage of any other parent.”
In other words, the title of section 206 is misleading. There are no “competing claims of parentage”; there is no competition in those terms, because there is no limit on the number of spaces available. There can only be competing claims about parentage, wherein factions of parents go to court to deny the parentage of others or to force it upon them. With potentially limitless numbers of parents, the likelihood that courts will need to step in rises. And with the idea of “family” removed from the realm of biological reality and into the realm of legal creation, “the family” ceases to be a more-fundamental institution with primacy over government and rights beyond the scope thereof and becomes a matter of legal agreement under the purview and whim of public officials, ultimately in the person of a judge.
To return to the key point: In contrast to WPRI’s claims, the legislation was modified in order to make it less clear what it would do. As unclear as lawmakers may strive to be, with the move of nearby Somerville, Massachusetts, to explicitly allow for polyamory in domestic partnerships, it isn’t difficult to see where this is going. Our politicians just don’t trust their voters to be sufficiently enlightened if their elected betters state their intentions, so the move is step by step, deception by deception.
In those terms, even if our news media were inclined to stand up for clarity, truth, and our civil right to representative government purely out of principle, journalists may not know how to recognize when those principles are threatened, much less report on it. Politicians pass laws without acknowledging what they are meant to do, and journalists write stories without acknowledging that any objections could conceivably exist.
In this way, everybody gets to enjoy the jolt of excitement and self-affirmation that comes with radically transforming a civilization without risking any uncomfortable criticism. Thus, in a short report on a government action that most Rhode Islanders will never know about, we get an indication of where we are: The modern-day progressive crusade sees political disputes as battles in a fairy tale. The good guys are always obvious, and the Other is always best ignored and can justifiably be eliminated (or, let’s say, canceled) if it dares make its presence known.