Divorce is difficult enough under any circumstances, but for gay couples in states where same-sex marriage didn't become legal until last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, issues surrounding divorce and child custody are still being figured out by the courts. In one case, state lawmakers, backed by a conservative Christian group, are fighting to have their say.
State Law Makes No Reference to Same-Sex Couples in Artificial Insemination Cases
The case involves two Tennessee women in the process of divorcing who are fighting over custody of the daughter they were raising together. The women were married in 2014 in Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage was already legal. One of the women became pregnant via artificial insemination.
When the couple broke up, a Tennessee circuit court judge ruled that the other woman had no legal rights to visitation or custody of the girl because all state statutes referring to custody of children conceived through that process use the word "husbands," with no mention of same-sex couples. The attorney for the woman seeking custody has argued that under the Supreme Court ruling, the state law needs to be interpreted more broadly.
Lawmakers Say They're "Defending the Will of the People"
In the midst of this, 53 Republican legislators and a group called the Family Action Council of Tennessee have filed a motion contending that the lawmakers have a "unique and substantial interest" in whether the law can be interpreted as referring to any spouses, regardless of gender. This isn't the first Tennessee court case in which FACT has gotten involved. One case is still pending, while a judge ruled that the group had no legal standing in the other.
The head of FACT asserts that at the heart of the matter in this case is whether it's constitutional for judges' decisions and interpretations of state law to be determined by Supreme Court rulings. He says that the lawmakers bringing this action are "defending the will of the people."
It's likely going to take some time before many family law issues are ironed out for same-sex couples in many states, particularly regarding child custody matters. That's why it's essential to seek legal guidance from family law attorneys who have experience fighting for the rights of those in same-sex relationships -- including their right to continue to be a parent to children they've helped raise.
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