Four expecting lesbian couples have taken a stand against a new Tennessee law requiring all state legal codes to be interpreted with ‘natural and ordinary’ meanings.
Much of the state’s law gives rights to husbands and wives or the father and mother of a child, so Tennessee could deny same-sex couples their parental rights by interpreting these terms ‘naturally and ordinarily’.
Attorney Julie Tate-Keith filed the lawsuit on 5 May on behalf of married couples Charitey and Heather Mackenzie, Crystal Dawn and Terra Mears, Elizabeth and Heather Broadaway, and Emilie and Kathrine Guthrie, all of whom are expecting babies in the fall.
Kathrine Guthrie said in a Facebook post: ‘We did our best to avoid this but desperate times call for desperate measures when parental rights are on the line… and a due date is a firm deadline.’
Though some state lawmakers deny the bill is a direct response to same-sex marriage and gender, Tate-Keith told NBC News: ‘If this isn’t about gay people, why are we talking about gay people?
‘The Supreme Court said that gay people could get married,’ she added. ‘If that’s to be meaningful, then same-sex couples have to be treated the same way that opposite-sex couples are, and that means parentage like anyone else.’
Law could impinge on Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery warned the law could impinge on rights provided by the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.
He wrote on 13 April: ‘Statutes that are related to marriage or to the terms, conditions, benefits, or obligations of marriage could, in some instances, be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the legislation’
The women filing the suit hope to overturn the law and obtain a court order confirming same-sex couples and their children have equal rights under the law.
If they are unsuccessful in their suit, Tennessee’s LGBTI families could have trouble filing for custody, traveling across state lines and obtaining health insurance or social security.