Tennessee Gay Couples Have Equal Parental Rights, Judge Rules

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Tennessee same-sex couples have the same parental rights as heterosexual couples with children born through artificial insemination, a judge ruled Friday.

The judge dismissed a challenge to a new state law backed by conservatives requiring using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state law. But LGBT activists consider the judge’s ruling a victory because of language in the ruling about equal parental rights, reports the Associated Press.

Gov. Haslam signed the “natural meaning” bill in May despite objections from LGBT advocates and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

Four married lesbian couples expecting children through artificial insemination sued after the law went into effect. But Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle dismissed the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs didn’t prove their rights had been violated.

There had been a lack of clarity over how the new law would be interpreted and how much impact it would really have. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has maintained that the new law would have to be considered in light of another state law requiring gender-specific words to be interpreted as inclusive.

Another bill considered by the state legislature this year required that the words “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” be interpreted based on the biological distinctions between men and women. The bill did not get far and the one that eventually passed says only that any word undefined in state law be used according to its “natural and ordinary meaning.”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an Arkansas case that the state must include the names of same-sex couples on children’s birth certificates.

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