Creative Destruction

July 28, 2006

Court Strongly Rejects “Choice For Men” Civil Rights Lawsuit

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 8:55 am

Via Red State Feminist, a pdf file of the court’s ruling can be found here. The court ruled “that the plaintiff’s claim is frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation.”

Here’s a bit of the ruling:

According to the pleadings, Dubay commenced a personal relationship with defendant Lauren Wells, dated her, engaged in intimate sexual relations, impregnated her, terminated his relationship, and sued her for bearing his child. If chivalry is not dead, its viability is gravely imperiled by the plaintiff in this case.

But chivalry is not the issue here, nor does it provide a basis upon which to decide the legal and policy issues that Dubay seeks to advance through this litigation. Rather, the plaintiff contends that Michigan’s paternity statutes are repugnant to the United States Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses because he has no say, he argues, in the decision whether to beget and bear a child. Therefore, he insists, he ought not to be saddled with the financial responsibility of the child’s support, and he should receive damages from the private and public defendants who are attempting to exact that toll from him.

The plaintiff’s claims have been rejected by every court that has considered similar matters, and with good reason. The plaintiff’s suggestion that the support provisions of the Michigan Paternity Act implicates the Equal Protection Clause does not find support in the jurisprudence. First, the Act’s provisions apply only if a child is born and essentially do not concern anyone’s right to choose to be a parent.

Second, the statutory provisions are facially neutral, requiring both parents equally to support the child.

Third, the plaintiff argues that enforcing the Act’s provisions, without any deviation from the neutral language of those provisions, still can implicate the Equal Protection Clause because of an underlying inequality: the State’s recognition that women can choose to be parents and men cannot. This argument in turn is based on the existence of a right supposedly grounded in substantive due process, as the plaintiff acknowledged at oral argument. But the Sixth Circuit has squarely rejected the argument that fairness or reciprocity generates a substantive right to avoid child support on the theory that a woman has the right to bring to term or terminate a pregnancy on her own.

Finally, the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate in even the most remote way that state action plays a role in the interference with his choice to reject parenthood. The consequences of sexual intercourse have always included conception, and the State has nothing to do with this historical truism. Because the plaintiff has failed to state a colorable claim in his amended complaint, the Court will dismiss the complaint against all the defendants. In addition, the Court finds that the plaintiff’s claim is frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation. Therefore, the Court will grant the State’s motion for attorney fees….

The above is pretty much the “executive summary” section of the judgement; read the whole thing if you’d like to see the arguments developed in more detail.

13 Comments »

  1. The ruling hardly surprises anyone familiar with the topic of unwanted fatherhood. The courts have upheld that young boys who have been rap–excuse me, had unfortunate sexual contact must pay child support to their female rap–excuse me again, their female sexual partners who bear the boys’ children (here and here). Why on earth would anyone assume that an adult male would be treated any differently?

    Comment by toysoldier — July 28, 2006 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  2. I also wanted to add that the court’s rulings could easily apply to women. Yet many states allow women to throw away children without any financial or legal repercussions. The court’s statement:

    If chivalry is not dead, its viability is gravely imperiled by the plaintiff in this case.

    But chivalry is not the issue here, nor does it provide a basis upon which to decide the legal and policy issues that Dubay seeks to advance through this litigation.

    appears quite contradictory. Chivalry must play some vital role in the ruling because the same logic could be applied to mothers who discard their children like trash and yet it often is not.

    One interesting message cases like this send is that men, particularly young men, should not trust their female partners at all. She probably is not on the pill and you should not use any contraceptive she provides. At the very least, you should avoid vaginal sex.

    Comment by toysoldier — July 28, 2006 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  3. There is plenty of inequality the other way. A woman who gives birth and fails to provide the proper care may face first degree murder charges in Colorado if the baby dies. More generally, women who are poor and have trouble caring for their children often face criminal child abuse and neglect charges.

    Fathers who simply disappear and fail to provide for their children, and don’t take their children with them, almost never face criminal charges of any kind. A termination of parental rights, or a civil child suport order, are much more common consequences.

    Comment by ohwilleke — July 28, 2006 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  4. “This idea [i.e. choice for men] very neatly divides those who truly find abortion unobjectionable and those who just like it because it gives women whatever they want.

    …Every decision lies with her; the father is more or less her creature. This is what ‘pro-choice’ really means. Women,* being what they are, defend the principle vigorously.”

    Udolpho

    * I would have said “feminists” instead of women, myself.

    Comment by Glaivester — July 28, 2006 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  5. ohwilleke: I agree with you that, as far as I can tell, this case was prosecutorial overkill (assuming there isn’t something more to the story that we don’t know about, but that seems unlikely).

    As for the reasons behind such outlandish charges, Paul Craig Roberts has written a few columns on the topic of abusive prosecution that you would probably find interesting. (He explains it the same way you do). Here is one of them. (Roberts is an interesting columnist, as his columns appear in both far left sites like Counterpucnh and far right sites like VDARE).

    Comment by Glaivester — July 28, 2006 @ 8:37 pm | Reply

  6. The Roberts article is not wrong. There are far more wrongful convictions than most people realize, and the criminal justice system is not very far to the innocent. An illustration of that came in a recent corporate fraud case where a man was offered six months in prison if he pleaded guilty, didn’t because he believed that he would be acquitted, wasn’t, and instead was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. The price of forcing a trial is high.

    The flip side of that, as explained recently by a Colorado criminal defense lawyer in a Denver bar journal, is that most of those charged are guilty of something, and that plea bargains are often fairly lenient. They may not be guilty of precisely what they are charged with, but they are usually guilty of something similar.

    It is easy for people who don’t interact with the criminal justice system very often to believe in innocent until proven guilty. And, in a system with jury trials, we get the benefit of this to a great extent. But, in a system where easily 90% and probably close to 95%+ are guilty of something close to what they are charged with, regular players have a hard time keeping the faith and looking at each case afresh.

    There is no doubt that we need rules to restrain plea bargaining, and that we haven’t been able to formulate them yet.

    Comment by ohwilleke — July 29, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Reply

  7. Ohwilleke, while the example is an abuse of law, it is not specific to the girl’s gender but rather her age. Laws created to punish juveniles typically treat them far harsher than any adult would be treated. But I fail to make the connection between a mother’s bad parenting which clearly caused the child’s death and the issue of choice of men. Mothers who simply disappear, fail to provide for their children, or don’t take their children with them almost never face criminal charges of any kind either. They are also rarely required to pay child support. In fact, many women are given custody of the children despite clear abuse or even prior convictions for child abuse.

    Those are two separate issues though. The idea behind choice for men is that if a man feels he cannot take on the responsibility of a child, he should be allowed to terminate his parental rights just as women do. As it stands, even sperm donors and male child rape victims can be forced to pay child support.

    Comment by toysoldier — July 29, 2006 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  8. toydoldier said: One interesting message cases like this send is that men, particularly young men, should not trust their female partners at all. She probably is not on the pill and you should not use any contraceptive she provides. At the very least, you should avoid vaginal sex.

    I mostly agree. I have a brother who is 24 and a graduate student, meaning he is definitely going to be very successful in life. He would never trust a woman to provide condoms or assume that she was on the birth control pill or some other contraceptive. He says that it is not that he thinks all woman are liars, it’s just that he knows some women do lie in order to try to get pregnant and entrap men. My bro acknowledges the fact that even the most responsible woman may have a contraceptive failure and won’t want an abortion.

    Any man that is serious about not having an unwanted child should be as concerned about birth control as the woman he is having sex with and should always make sure that he uses spermical condoms to protect himself.

    Not having sex with women you would be horrified to have a child with helps also.

    Comment by SBW — July 29, 2006 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

  9. But the Sixth Circuit has squarely rejected the argument that fairness or reciprocity generates a substantive right to avoid child support on the theory that a woman has the right to bring to term or terminate a pregnancy on her own.

    This is confusing. The woman’s “right to bring to term or terminate a pregnancy on her own” is not in question here. What is in question is whether the state should force the father to pay child support for the resulting child.

    Finally, the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate in even the most remote way that state action plays a role in the interference with his choice to reject parenthood. The consequences of sexual intercourse have always included conception, and the State has nothing to do with this historical truism.

    Either the court’s language is confusing here, or it is itself confused. Of course the state has nothing to do with intercourse results in conception. Yet the state has everything to do with forcing men to pay child support and not allowing them to terminate their parental rights.

    Comment by Aegis — July 30, 2006 @ 12:08 am | Reply

  10. Aegis writes:

    This is confusing. The woman’s “right to bring to term or terminate a pregnancy on her own” is not in question here. What is in question is whether the state should force the father to pay child support for the resulting child.

    Why should this confuse you? The “pro-choicers” who reject “choice for men” are known to use tactics such as misrepresenting the issue at hand (i.e. implying that the men want to force the women to have abortions), and suddenly giving up large portions of their so-called “feminist principles.”

    This post from last year at Alas is a good illustration. For example, Ampersand suddenly finds that technical legal equality is perfectly adequate even if it does not acknowledge each person’s different situation, while he does not find this adequate when technical legal equality disadvantages women. and he even appears to approve of forcing men to take respnsibility for unwated children as a means of punishing him to control his sexual behavior:

    Even [if every child’s needs were provided for regardless of his parental situation], I have doubts about C4M, simply because I think the effect of C4M, in practice, would be to discourage men from using birth control, leading to a rise in single mother families among women and girls who aren’t really prepared to be mothers.

    As I recall, using pregnancy or fear of pregnancy to try to prevent women from having sex is something he disapproves of.

    (This particular posting I linked to and the comments thread is part of the reason why I take a more hostile view to Alas, a Blog then I used to. The ironic thing is that I really don’t support “choice for men.” [Nor do I support “choice for women” if that means legalizing (or keeping legal) abortion] I just find the hypocrisy of the “pro-choicers” who fight against “choice for men” infuriating).

    Comment by Glaivester — July 30, 2006 @ 12:54 am | Reply

  11. I fail to make the connection between a mother’s bad parenting which clearly caused the child’s death and the issue of choice of men. Mothers who simply disappear, fail to provide for their children, or don’t take their children with them almost never face criminal charges of any kind either.

    Not true. Mothers are genuinely left holding the bag, so to speak, the fathers long ago either left behind in the dust, or at least, not to close to the scene to be held responsible as an abusive or neglectful parent. Mothers don’t have that option. They are present at the creation and thus, find it much harder to simply disappear.

    This basic fact of biology is why single mother’s vastly outnumber single fathers, especially when very young children are concerned.

    Mother’s who fail to provide for their children, or don’t take care of children with them, in fact, routinely face criminal charges.

    A large share of all men who ever face charges for mistreatment of children aren’t even parents of those children. Men who disappear almost never face child abuse charges, while mothers who don’t do their jobs often do.

    Comment by ohwilleke — July 30, 2006 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

  12. Not true. Mothers are genuinely left holding the bag, so to speak, the fathers long ago either left behind in the dust, or at least, not to close to the scene to be held responsible as an abusive or neglectful parent. Mothers don’t have that option. They are present at the creation and thus, find it much harder to simply disappear.

    I disagree. While mothers who wish to keep their children are left holding the bag if the father leaves (assuming he knows), those who don’t want to keep the children have many options. And with the exception of abortion, many women can regain custody of the children they abandoned. Also, I don’t think you can legally charge a father for abusing a child if he was not physically there to commit or participate in the abuse.

    But ignoring the other options like foster care and adoption, women still have the choice not to become mothers if they don’t wish to. While some women can’t afford an abortion, they still have the option if they can raise the money. I think it would be fair to demand that men pay a fee to have their parental rights voided if they decided they didn’t want to be fathers. Whatever the mother decides is her decision. I just don’t think she should be allowed to make the decision for the father, especially when the reverse is considered a violation of the mother’s rights.

    Comment by toysoldier — July 31, 2006 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  13. Why can women dump a child while a man can’t. How is that fair? Women want equal rights yet they also want men to financially support their choice to have a child.

    Comment by Equal Rights for men — January 17, 2007 @ 6:37 pm | Reply


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