Attorneys who practice family law in Texas point out that in cases of abuse, it is common for courts to prevent children from being alone with specific people. But those same lawyers say that they"ve never heard of a case in which a step-parent or long-term partner is permanently enjoined from being alone with his or her step-children when abuse is not even alleged, let alone proven. No lawyer consulted for this story has ever heard of an order which prohibits children from being left alone with an entire gender.And I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the gender in question is male or that the person restrained by the order is a father. Flowers is appealing the order.
NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Gay Dad Ordered to Not Leave Son Alone With Any Man
A Texas judge ordered a gay father to never leave his son with a man he's not related to. Read about it here (Houston Chronicle, 8/22/11). William Flowers was married to a woman and they had a son. The two divorced in 2004 and Flowers' ex got primary custody and he got visitation. At some point, Flowers started having an intimate relationship with a man, Jim Evans, and the two traveled to Connecticut and got married. Back in Texas, Flowers decided he wanted more time with his son and asked the family court to modify the custody order. The jury that heard the case declined to do that, but continued his visitation with his son. Then the judge did a remarkable thing; Judge Charley E. Prine, Jr. issued an order prohibiting Flowers from ever leaving his son alone with any man he was not related to by "blood or adoption." That put me in mind of a case I wrote about just a couple of weeks ago. There, a judge issued a restraining order against a father at the request of his ex-wife. The order prohibited the man from coming to his ex's place of work "or any other place plaintiff may be." At the time I pointed out that, with the possible exception of his own house, that order covered pretty much the whole globe. After all, if the guy went to Singapore, his wife might be there. At the time, I'd have said that was the most overly broad order I'd ever seen and patently unconstitutional. Here it is only two weeks later and Prine has already gone me one better. Consider the possibilities that could constitute violations of the order. A school friend comes over to play and the two go to Flowers' son's bedroom to play together. Guilty. Flowers takes the boy to the doctor and leaves him and the doctor alone together. Guilty. Flowers takes the boy to school early one day and he and a male teacher are alone in the classroom together for a time. Guilty. That list is limited only by one's imagination, so Prine's order is ridiculously overbroad. It's likewise so vague that no sensible person can understand what's prohibited and what's not. What if the boy misbehaves in school and is sent to the male principal's office? What if he's the last one off the school bus that has a male driver? Has the boy suffered a serious injury or medical condition? Don't let EMS technicians put him the ambulance alone. Actually, when he dials 9-1-1, Flowers should request an all-female team, otherwise some ravening man might do who-knows what. But Prine clearly wasn't thinking of those things when he issued his order. He was thinking of only one thing - that Flowers is gay. Apparently, in Prine's fevered mind, that means that men - all of them - with whom Flowers associates are presumptively pedophiles. Now of course there's absolutely no evidence that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children than are straight men or anyone else. But that doesn't keep certain people from thinking they do. Indeed, back in the 80s, there was an overt movement to keep gay men from being school teachers and the rationale was exactly that. The movement had no data to support the claim, but they, apparently like Prine, felt they needed none. And let's not forget that, throughout the first custody case between Flowers and his ex, as well as the most recent one, there's never been a claim of any form of child abuse made by or against either of the parents. Likewise, there's no claim or evidence that Jim Evans poses any danger to Flowers' son. So, as far as I can tell, the order is simply gratuitous. It's also plainly misandric. The assumption is that men, gay men included, pose a unique danger to children. We don't. In fact, fathers do far less injury to children than do mothers - about half as much according to the department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. But Prine wasn't about to let facts get in the way of his radically misandric and misguided order. Meanwhile, Texas lawyers say they've never seen or heard of an order as broad and patently unenforceable as Prine's.