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Orlando Sentinel Sunday October 31, 1999 Imagine a world without men For NOW, it's easy By Kathleen Parker You no longer have to read between the lines to divine the National Organization for Women's agenda. In a way it seems refreshingly simple: No Men. That's the only conclusion one can draw upon reviewing NOW's objections to proposed federal legislation, popularly known as the "Fathers Count" bill (HR 3073). The bill isn't exactly a mainstream father's dream. Mostly, the bill creates programs to help unemployed fathers find jobs so they can produce child support for their welfare progeny. In fact, men's-rights activists aren't wild about the bill, saying that it addresses only the financial responsibilities of fathers while ignoring pressing (child access) concerns of fathers disenfranchised by courts that favor mothers. Still on Planet Deadbeat, it's better than nothing. But NOW "really" doesn't like the bill because, well, it seems helpful to men. The fact that helping men might result ultimately in helping women and children is irrelevant. Anything that purports to help men is suspect. In the case of the Fathers Count bill, NOW claims that it's unconstitutional. Martha F. Davis, legal director for NOW's Legal Defense and Education Fund, recently wrote the rollowing to Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, chair of the subcommittee on Human Resources: "Because they (the bill's authors) tie the federal benefits available under the Act to gender (ie "fathershood) these provisions violate the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment...." At NOW's insistence, language has been added to the "Fathers Count" bill so that mothers, expectant mothers and married mothers are eligible for benefits and services on the same basis as fathers, expectant fathers and married fathers. Even so, NOW is callenging the bill on its gender-constitutionality. One could cast NOW's protest in a favorable light. They just want to advance equality, right? But one would be wrong. When it comes to legislation aimed only at helping women, NOW forgets everything it knows about the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. For example, NOW issued no such protest to the grant application kit for victim services under the Violence Against Women Act Fund which specifically states: "A VAWA-funded project may not use VAWA funds or matching funds for projects that focus on children or men." Selective constitutionality at its shameless best. Then, in an astonishing show of its true colors, NOW began protesting Vice President Gore's support the "Fathers Count" bill pointing out that the bill will funnel $150 million to "local and national organizations, many of them likely to be fathers' rights groups and right-wing (as opposed to left-wing) religious organizations." In an e-mail alert, NOW urged its members to lobby Gore to oppse the bill because, get this, the act would give money to organizations that: "promote marriage; enhance relationship skills; reach how to control aggressive behavior;p promote successsful parejnting; train parents in money management; encourage regular visitaiton between fathers and children; help fathers and their families avoid or leave welfare; improve fathers'[ economic status" by providing work services and education. Well, hell's bells. Who'd want such a thing as that? Successful marriage, responsible parenting, financial independence? What we clearly need in this country are more bad marriages, more bad parenting, more welfare families. You have to wonder why anyone would find fault with a government program that promotes the concept of people looking after their own families, tryhing to get along. You have to wonder, and then you remember: Follow the money. NOW's livelihood depends on the perception of women as victims. Strengthening families and reinstating fatherhood threatens that status and organizations that thrive on it. Tribune Media Services Kathleen Parker, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, welcomes comments via e-mail at