I was sitting at my desk on a Monday morning in 2009, skimming the news for parental rights stories, when I got a call from someone I’d never met. Her name was Teri: she was a concerned mother in Oklahoma, and she had just heard then ParentalRights.org president Michael Farris on a radio show over the weekend.
Mike had talked on the show about impending threats to the family and to parental rights, and Teri knew she had to act. She went to church Sunday morning and cornered another church member who happened to be a former state senator. He agreed to give her five minutes of his time, but as she warmed to the topic, he ended up giving her an hour and a half—and an invitation to call him again anytime she had a question or needed ideas.
So that Monday morning, she was calling me. Armed with the experiential knowledge of her former-senator friend, Teri was determined to bring the parental rights battle to her state of Oklahoma.
At the time, we had never done anything state specific. Our aim in those days was the Parental Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
But in the weeks that followed that call, ParentalRights.org drafted our first foray into state politics, a resolution to protect parental rights. And in the months following that, Teri and her growing circle of political connections got that resolution passed.
12 Years of Partnership
Fast-forward a dozen years to 2021.
In the last decade, we’ve seen more than a dozen bills passed in as many states to protect children by guarding their parents’ rights to raise them as they see fit.
States like Nevada, Virginia, Kansas, Wyoming, and Oklahoma all have new laws on the books to protect families by supporting parental rights. And right now, we’re on the brink of adding Iowa and Florida to that list, as well.
[Editor’s note: Since this writing, the Parent’s Bill of Rights in Florida has passed the legislature. See our update on its passage here.]
Jim and Patti Sullivan are championing the Parents’ Bill of Rights in Florida. Barb Heki is coordinating lawmaker support on another fundamental parental rights bill in Iowa. And a fantastic volunteer in Indiana (who prefers to remain anonymous) sounded an instrumental alert against a dangerous bill being floated there.
Like Teri with our very first resolution, the heroes championing these bills are all volunteers. We share our experience with them, provide them with bill language, and otherwise support what they’re doing. But they are the boots on the ground. They are the ones bringing change to their states.
And with your support, we are proud to provide them the resources they need to succeed.
The Result: Good Legislation
In recent years, we have provided model legislation to declare that parental rights are fundamental rights and require the highest level of judicial scrutiny when those rights are violated. We’ve also helped draft “parents’ bills of rights,” as well as more targeted bills, like those to provide due process before a name goes on a child abuse registry or to end anonymous reports to child abuse hotlines.
These past few months, we have been fighting hard to get the Florida and Iowa bills passed. There are no guarantees, but as it stands, we are optimistic both bills will pass to protect parents’ rights: to protect Florida and Iowa families.
And that dangerous bill in Indiana is being dealt with, too.
Frankly, it has been an exciting couple of months.
The passage of the dangerous DC vaccination bill was certainly a disappointment, but it was one we anticipated. We’ve handed that problem off to the Parental Rights Foundation, who will now take that battle to the courts.
But in Florida, Iowa, and Indiana, we are seeing very real chances for success.
In Iowa, Barb managed to pull together the perfect combination of lawmakers to make parental rights a priority.
Senator Brad Zaun is a champion of family values and has been serving in Senate leadership for years. He has experience; he knows the ropes. He knows what has to happen and who he needs to talk to if the parental rights bill is going to pass.
Representative Eddie Andrews, on the other hand, is in his very first term, but has quickly established a reputation as a passionate go-getter. Rep. Andrews has readily adjusted to weathering the twists and turns a legislature can present, and he is fresh, winsome, and well-liked.
Between the two, Zaun and Andrews have proved the perfect team to carry our bill—the respected voice of experience, and the well-liked fresh, new face.
I believe that together they will see this parental rights bill to victory.
Florida Victory: A Long Time Coming
Meanwhile, in Florida, Patti and her daughter, Abbagael have been travelling from their home in south Florida to Tallahassee to attend and testify at as many committee hearings as possible. There have been six such hearings, and the proposed Parents’ Bill of Rights has successfully passed every one.
In her closing remarks before the Florida House, where the bill passed on a 78–37 vote, Rep. Erin Grall nailed the reason for the bill, the reason we stand for parental rights.
Grall declared, “For adult authority figures to interfere with the parent-child relationship is wrong and should not be encouraged. It erodes the family and the authority of the parent over their minor child. And parents have been put on the sidelines for too long…Children are in crisis, and those who love them most are not even being given information about the crisis.”
Florida lawmakers are awake now to the reality that families need to be protected from outside interference.
But this victory has been a long time coming.
Last year, Patti and I watched together (well, she from Florida and I from Virginia) as the Senate Rules Committee delayed the Parents’ Bill of Rights until the final day, then dragged out their discussion until the deadline had passed.
It was a frustrating experience, knowing our bill, sitting right there, one vote away, was dying, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.
But that makes the victory this year that much sweeter.
It Takes All of Us
We couldn’t have done any of it without our volunteers. And at the risk of sounding prideful, they couldn’t have done it without us, either.
But that’s really the point of this letter.
Volunteers like Patti and Barb are looking to us to provide model language, to discuss strategy, and even to send timely email alerts. They look to us for the resources and experience they need to take their passion for parental rights, turn it into a bill, and get that bill across the finish line.
And it is an absolute joy to be able to be that resource for them.
Because together we are slowly but surely changing the legal landscape in favor of families.
And we are only able to do this because of you.
Your generous partnership is what frees us to be there for Patti and for Barb.
You allowed us to be there for Teri back in 2009, and for Adriana, Tracey, and Sam along the way. In fact, you have empowered more volunteers than I have time to list in this newsletter. Their success has been your success, and I know they would want me to thank you.
So thank you.
Thank you for standing with us so we can stand behind these volunteers and bring real and lasting change that protects families like yours and mine from unnecessary harm.
But as you know, the work is far from over.
For every success, every victory we win together, it seems another threat shows up. We have to keep fighting together—you, me, and our wonderful volunteers—to stop the constant attacks on our rights. Can I count on you to partner with us again, to bring these new Iowa and Florida bills across the finish line, and to make sure we see even more successes in the years to come?
Thank you for fueling our success, for the sake of families all over the country.
P.S. Our goal is that, one day, our presence won’t be necessary anymore. That you won’t need us or our volunteers to fight for your fundamental rights as a parent. But that day isn’t here yet, and we must keep pushing forward until it is. Will you support our work today, so that we can continue strong in the fight for parental rights?