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Proposed Tennessee law could affect same-sex parents

In the aftermath of the 2015 Supreme Court of the U.S. decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, many Tennessee same-sex couples may have felt vindicated, with the understanding that they would now be afforded the same right to marry and raise families as heterosexual couples. Unfortunately, in many places, there are still tendrils of state government resistant to this idea, and some representatives are acting on it.

Recently, for example, a Tennessee legislator filed a bill in the state House of Representatives that would modify existing law with regard to parental rights to children born through artificial insemination. Some readers may remember that last summer this provision in the law made some headlines when a trial court judge decided that the word "husband" in such law could not be read to include child custody rights for one half of a lesbian couple during a divorce. While that decision is on appeal, this proposed legislation could change the entire crux of that case.

The proposed law attempts to remove the possibility of the second parent, the one not giving birth, being listed as the child's parent on the birth certificate. If passed, this statute would create a situation where same-sex couples, even if legally married, would have to go through an expensive and lengthy adoption process for both spouses to be considered legal parents. This can affect everything from inheritance and property rights to the right to make health and welfare decisions for a child by one of the spouses, as well as potential child custody rights in the case of a divorce. As written the law might also affect husbands whose wives have a child via artificial insemination.

While great strides have certainly been made in the area of same-sex couple's rights, proposals such as the above show that there still remain many complications that exist in same-sex family law. Tennessee residents with questions about their rights and how to protect them may wish to consider contacting an attorney experienced in dealing with the unique legal issues facing same-sex couples.

Source: Salon, "Tennessee has declared war on same-sex families: Inside the legislation that would eradicate nearly all rights for LGBT couples," Nico Lang, Feb. 27, 2017

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