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Gay couples given equal custody rights in Tennessee

What makes a parent a parent? Is it biology alone that makes the cut?

A Tennessee court has made another, more final, ruling on what many people feel like should have never been an issue in the first place: whether or not married gays who have a child via artificial insemination using donor sperm have the same rights to that child that a heterosexual couple would. Specifically at issue was whether or not the nonbiological parent in a same-sex union had the same parental rights as a nonbiological parent in a heterosexual union.

Under the law, the husband of a woman who becomes pregnant via artificial insemination is that child’s presumptive father. The language of the law hasn’t been updated to reflect the sweeping social changes brought about by the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

A number of politicians in the state rushed a law into place that would have required the courts to use the “natural and ordinary meaning” of language in any law — effectively barring the nonbiological parent in these situations from being the presumptive parent simply because the other parent was a woman, not a man.

Four lesbian couples, each married and expecting a child conceived by artificial insemination, brought suit against the state — but a lower court’s ruling has preempted the higher court. Before the hastily passed “natural and ordinary meaning” law was pushed into place, a judge in a divorce case said that the new conservative-leaning law did nothing to circumvent another state law that requires the readings of gender-specific laws to be gender-neutral. Under that ruling, “father” can equal “mother” and “husband” can be read as “wife.”

The court ultimately dismissed each of the four lawsuits, saying there had been no discrimination (since the first child had yet to be born) and that there should be none, given the interpretation of the law that the courts are using. Despite the dismissal, gay-rights activists are counting this case as a win.

An attorney can provide you with more information about child custody issues in Tennessee, including those that deal with same-sex parents.

Source:, “Tennessee judge rules gay couples have equal parental rights,” accessed Aug. 02, 2017