Morality Players

Cindy Resnick doesn't think state health director Ted Williams should set himself up as some sort of morality cop.

The Tucson Democratic lawmaker is squabbling with Williams over his refusal to record birth certificates when a married woman won't list her husband as the father of the child. Williams, an Evan Mecham appointee whom Governor Rose Mofford has kept on board, insists he's just trying to preserve the accuracy of state records. Resnick says the health director is more interested in poking his nose into other people's business.

"His job is to record, not to determine the legal validity of the documents," complains Resnick, the ranking Democrat on the House Health Committee. "He sees himself as the moral cop at the department. That's not his job."

Arizona has had laws on the books for many years about what names are supposed to be listed on birth certificates. But the laws went largely unnoticed until last year, when Department of Health Services employees began refusing to issue birth certificates.

That refusal is more than academic. A youngster cannot enroll in school without one. The same goes for trying to get a Social Security number.

The new policy affects more than women who are married when they give birth. Williams says if a woman was married at any time during the prior ten months--regardless of whether she is married at the time of birth--she must list the husband's name as the father of the child. Williams said it is unimportant whether the mother actually had sexual relations with her husband during that period of time and there is no way he could be the biological father. "If the father is not the husband, the husband's name still goes on the certificate," he says. "It's the law."

Williams insists it's simply a matter of maintaining accurate records. That theme is echoed by Renee Gaudino, his manager of vital records. She contends it would be inaccurate to allow a new mother to list "unknown" under the name of the father if she was married. Gaudino is undeterred by the fact that the mother may know that her husband or her former spouse is not really the father. Thus, by following the department's demands, mother would make the records inaccurate.

Gaudino admits that may be true but says there are other issues at work here. "What about the rights of the child?" she asks, now clearly agitated at the questions. "If we don't establish who the father is, where does the state go to fight for child support? How does the state get away from paying welfare because there is no father?"

Resnick retorts that it's not the health department's job to worry about issues of paternity and child support.

But what if the husband or ex doesn't want to be listed as the father? "He can hire a lawyer and get a court decree," Gaudino replies. "It doesn't really cost that much money to do those things these days."

But for all the concern she and Williams profess to have for the accuracy of the records, Gaudino admits no one really checks them. That means a woman giving birth can simply say she's not married. That not only allows her to leave blank the name of the father but in fact prohibits her from actually naming anyone. "We assume people are telling the truth," Gaudino says, "but it's always possible to lie."

Resnick says she ran into a stone wall in trying to get Williams to cooperate in solving the problem. So she crafted legislation to bar Williams from refusing to record a birth certificate where a married woman leaves the name of the father blank. The bill with her amendment passed the House last week and is now awaiting action in the Senate. And what does Williams think of Resnick's action? As of last week the only official word from the health department was that they have yet to take a position on the measure.

Williams says he will keep enforcing the law as he sees it. "It's not my job to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore," he says. But that philosophy doesn't extend to other areas of Williams' domain. Assistants admitted earlier this year that they were just too busy with other things to enforce state laws that require them to make sure mattresses offered for resale have been fumigated and that consumers are told when they're not buying new products. Williams' staff, uncomfortable simply ignoring the law, asked the legislature to repeal it. Lawmakers refused. But the inspections still aren't taking place.


If you still don't think Rose Mofford is running for governor next year, just ask Emily.

Actually, it's EMILY to you: Early Money Is Like Yeast.
When the governor was attending meetings last month at the annual National Governors Association convention in Washington, aide Karen Scates wasn't just sitting on her duff. The former aide to Congressman Mo Udall was busy renewing old acquaintances in the D.C. area who might be interested in providing financial support for Mofford's race.

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