Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Bother Us With Facts, We Have An Image To Maintain!

Once again, I've read something that shows just how insanely absurd some of our laws can be.

Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court told a man he could no longer press the claim of paternity of his son, even though he has the incontrovertible proof of a DNA test that indicates that he is indeed the child's biological father.

Why, might you ask?

It's very simple. The child's mother was married to another man at the time of the conception and has remained married to that man throughout. The court considers holding up the image of what our society believes a marriage should be to be more important than the truth. They have decreed that in the interests of the institution of marriage, that a lie must take precedence over the truth.

Don't bother them with facts; they've got an image to maintain in Kentucky!

"As long as marriage is on the books, it must mean something," wrote Justice Bill Cunningham.

Really? Is he saying that it should mean more than the truth? I'd always thought that the law was about upholding the truth, no matter how inconvenient it may be to a society's ideals.

"We are in need of a bold declaration that the marriage circle, even one with an errant partner, will be invaded at one's own legal risk," he added. "While the legal status of marriage in this early 21st century appears to be on life support, it is not dead."

Marriage must really be in critical condition if he thinks the only way to support it is by perpetuating a lie, i.e., a "legal fiction".

But Kentucky's ruling is firmly grounded in legal history. The idea of "marital presumption" has barred attacks on the "legitimacy" of children for centuries. Courts have long held that allegations of fatherhood by third parties can only disrupt the family, confuse or embarrass the child, and unsettle the social order.

What the ruling ignored, however, is that these laws are obsolete in the face of modern technology, as in the instance of DNA tests, that can absolutely prove paternity. When such laws were adopted, there was no way to establish paternity with any certainty, thus these laws made better sense at the time.

Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson in a dissent attacking the majority's notion that the boy will be better off not knowing the truth about his parentage said, "Our world is full of inconvenient truths. We accomplish nothing for families, the broader community and our justice system when we deny those truths."

The truth is better than a lie, and the earlier the child learns the truth, the earlier he can adjust to it. I can't imagine it will be a happy moment for the boy when he inevitably finds out the truth as an adult and discovers he's been lied to all those years. His biological father isn't seeking custody or to deny him a relationship with his stepfather; he just wants to know his son, be a part of his life, and for the truth of his paternity to be formally acknowledged.

For laws to be respected and to have any relevance, they must keep pace with current realities. A law becomes obsolete and maladaptive when it is applied to circumstances that could not have existed at the time the law was enacted. To insist upon enforcing obsolete laws, even when they deny truth and perpetuate lies does not reflect the intentions of those who enacted the law with the information they had to work with at the time. Rather, it makes a mockery of the law.


1 comment:

transfattyacid said...

Figure of justice is always pitured as being blindfolded.

I didn;t realise in Kentucky they removed the brain as well.

Does this ruling mean the the biological father only becomes the father when the woman divorces?