Servicemember Family Protection Act

Floor Speech

By:  Rob Andrews
Date: May 30, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Florida for yielding and for putting deeds ahead of words when it comes serving our veterans, as I know the full committee does as well. This is an issue on which there is no Republican, Democrat, no liberal, conservative divide. There's unanimity we should put our deeds first and our words second. I commend my friend from Florida for being an exemplar of that principle.

No member of our armed services should ever be told that a custody decision involving their children depends solely on the fact that they have been deployed or will be deployed. Never should that happen.

Now, in the past, there's been arguments, frankly, from the other body against this provision on the argument that we must choose between the best interest of the child and the sovereign parental rights of our servicemembers. This is a false and inaccurate choice.

This bill starts from the premise that the best interest of the child is the paramount value. It in no way disrupts or subverts any State law in that respect, but it adds to that provision a provision that must be added by Federal law, because there must be a uniform standard since it's the Federal Government that is deciding who will be deployed and when. So, supplemental to the guiding principle of the best interest of the child is a principle in this bill that says that deployment cannot be the sole reason for a decision to deprive a man or woman of custody of his or her child.

Now, it strikes me that this is a complex legal issue. I will confess to that. But morally, this is a distinct, clear, and open issue. We all support the best interest of the child. But I think that we all support, and I think in a few minutes we're going to have a vote that demonstrates that we all support, the principle that the sovereignty of parenthood should not be forfeited by taking the oath of office to serve one's country in uniform. This should never happen.

So, again, here is what this means. It means that no child would ever be placed in a situation that's not in his or her best interest in the decision of the decisionmaker, of the judge or the Court. None of us wants that. But it also means that any State or any judge that says the sole reason that we are depriving a man or woman of custody of his or her son or daughter is because they volunteered to serve their country and followed an order to be deployed or are about to follow an order to be deployed.

This is morally clear. It is legally correct, and I hope it will be unanimously supported by the ladies and gentlemen of the House.

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