NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gay rights advocates are sounding the alarm about a Tennessee bill they say could make it impossible for same-sex couples to be recognized as the legal parents of children conceived through artificial insemination.
The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver would repeal a 1977 state law that declared children born as a result of artificial insemination to be the legitimate offspring of the husband and wife.
Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, called the bill discriminatory.
“It would affect lesbian couples in particular, because if you have two women who are married and one is the birth mother, the other one is presumed to be parent in Tennessee,” he said.
Weaver in a Facebook post denied that her bill is aimed at same-sex marriage, and argued it would not de-legitimize children because another state law addresses parentage without asking about the method of conception.
“The remaining law that will now govern the situation does not have the government inquiring into the means by which the couple’s child came into existence or whose sperm, the husband’s or a donor’s, was used,” Weaver wrote in the post.
Children who are conceived by artificial insemination “are not illegitimate,” she said.
Weaver said she is proposing to repeal the law because of constitutional concerns raised by the Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery in a divorce case between two women in Knoxville.
In fact, Slatery’s filing in that case defends the constitutionality of the current law, arguing that following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage, the Tennessee statute should not be read as applying to “the legitimate child of the two spouses.”
A Slatery spokesman declined comment citing pending litigation.
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro called bill “an attack on families.”
“It’s frankly the most ill-conceived and offensive bill I’ve seen the Legislature,” Yarbro said. “And that’s saying something.”
Ever since the Supreme Court ruling, Tennessee laws with gender-specific terms have been interpreted as applying either gender of married couples.
But that would change under another Republican bill that is seeking to eliminate gender-neutral interpretations of “mother,” ”father,” ”husband,” and “wife.”
“Clearly, the legislative intention behind both these bills is to stop lesbian couples from having the same automatic recognition of their parent-child relationships that opposite-sex couples have,” Julia Tate-Keith, a Murfreesboro attorney specializing in adoption and surrogacy issues, said in a legal memo.
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