Two Montgomery County organizations that have sharply criticized the "incredible bias against men" judges show in the state's divorce courts have asked county officials to create a Commission for Men that would seek to change present divorce and child custody laws.
A spokesman for the groups, Fathers United for Equal Rights (FUER) and the Second Wives Coalition (SWC), said the proposed commission would sponsor educational programs and legal clinics on the inequities of the laws which, they say, are weighted against men.
Murray Stein, a FUER officer, said the need for a men's commission equalled that which led to the creation of the county's publicly funded Commission for Women. Stein said his group would sue the county on grounds of discrimination if their request wasn't met.
However, County Executive James P. Gleason said he was "not inclined" to establish a men's group.
"They have a certain specific grievance," Gleason said, referring to the groups, "but establishing (a Commission for Men) would tend to detract from the effort to improve women's rights in many areas. It would be seen as a countergroup."
Officials of the Commission for Women, who said they agreed with Stein that divorce and child custody laws need to be reformed, asserted that a commission like their for men wasn't needed.
"Their whol focus is toward a single issue," Quincelee Brown, staff director of the Commission for Women, said. "As a commission, we deal with dozens of issues - education, economic, and legal - which men don't have to bother with."
Brown and commission president Judy Vandegriff said they had previously invited memebrs of FUER to apply for appointment to the 15-member commission, which now has only one male.
FUER and SWC members will meet with Gleason, Brown, and Vandergriff Wednesday to discuss the groups' request.
FUER, a seven-year-old group that has chapters throughout Maryland and the metropolitan area, has long protested the alledgedly unequal treatment men receive in divorce and child custody cases.
For instance, in a letter to Gleason, the group asserts that the mother receives custody of the child in 95 per cent of all custody cases in the Maryland courts.
Stein said men face "lifetime problems" in divorce and child custody cases. "When a guy gets hit with alimony or child support payments, he's stuck with them for life if the wife chooses not to work," Stein said. "That's terrible and unfair burden."
Stein said several times that his group wasn't opposed to the Commission for Women. "We don't want to fight them," he said. "We have many areas of agreement. They have men's groups like us pulling for them. Just as it's important for them to use the rewomen, so we want to improve the lot of men."