Kentucky Senate approves bill designed to strengthen parents’ rights

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey voted against the bill, saying it's a solution in search of a problem

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A bill designed to reinforce parents’ rights received approval Wednesday from the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Stephen West, of Paris, said Senate Bill 40 states that Kentucky courts must apply a strict scrutiny standard when considering the interests of parents in the care, custody and control of their children.

“The purpose of this bill is to protect the fundamental rights of Kentucky parents to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children as guaranteed under Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

The care, custody and control of parents’ children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by the courts, West said.

“In fact, this right of parents to direct upbringing, education and care of their children predates the court itself. It is a right that was already understood and acknowledged long before the United States came to be as a country” he said.

West said these rights were recognized in English common law and by the commonwealth’s forefathers. He added that the bill does not affect existing state statutes, which have been under this standard for many years.

“This bill simply protects an idea and a standard that has been in operation since the founding of this state and even before that in order for the state to enact laws affecting our fundamental right to parent our children,” he said.

An amendment was added to legislation on the Senate floor Wednesday to except instances of child abuse and neglect. It passed 23-14 and now heads to the House.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, of Louisville, was one of the lawmakers who voted in opposition. He said his most important job is being a parent, but the bill is a solution in search of a problem.

McGarvey also expressed concern for children who are being raised by those who are not their biological parents. He pointed to a section of the bill that would define parents as the biological or adoptive mother or father of a child.

“Again, I’m thrilled that I get to be a parent to my kids,” he said. “That is not the reality for every child in Kentucky. In fact, there are 67,000 children in Kentucky who reside in households where the primary caregiver is not that definition of parent. There are 9,000 additional children in Kentucky who are in the foster care system.”

McGarvey said lawmakers should be talking about what they can do for children, not what can be done to them.

“What rights do parents not have in Kentucky right now? I ask as one of them. I don’t feel any threat to help raise my children in the way I see best fit. But this bill could create a problem for kids who do not have their biological parent as their primary caregiver,” he said.

West said the legislation will not negatively impact the right to “step into the shoes” of parents for children who have had issues, whether it’s foster care or another arrangement.

Republican Sen. Johnnie Turner, of Harlan, said he was going to vote for the measure.

“This bill kind of raises that standard that should have been placed the whole time. We should protect parents’ rights,” he said. “Nothing disrespectful of aunts, uncles, grandpas, brothers and sisters that help take care of them when needed. But this bill raises the bar to where you as a parent now have rights.”

Categories: Featured, Local News, News, State News