Companion bills State Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington) and State Senator Paul Rose (R-Covington) introduced the companion bills. These bills propose to remove custody, visitation, and inheritance rights for a parent convicted of statutory rape, aggravated statutory rape, or lesser included offenses of rape from which crime the child was conceived.
Current Tennessee Code prohibits custody, visitation, and inheritance rights for these types of rape: § 39-13-502, § 39-13-503, and § 39-13-522. If the companion bills are passed, the Code would also prohibit those rights for a parent who is convicted of aggravated statutory rape as outlined in § 39-13-506 or statutory rape by an authority figure as outlined in § 39-13-532. The legislation would also apply those same restrictions on a parent who is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser included offense.
Roses’s spokesperson informed The Tennessee Star that the bill seeks to strengthen present law removing parental rights from a rapist convicted of the crime. According to their office, the measures only failed to pass last year under a different bill sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the Senate’s legislative abilities.
“The victim of a rape, and a child conceived of such an act, should be protected from the perpetrator of that hideous and criminal act,” said Rose in a statement to The Star. “This is a ‘victim-centered bill’ and protects the mother and child from some questionable outcome in a civil custody battle.”
Rose didn’t answer as to whether there would be discussions of grandfathering in previous offenders, or when the companion bills might be brought before the general assembly for consideration. The bill would only apply to offenses committed on or after July 1 of this year.
Moody didn’t issue a response by press time.
Tennessee is one of 32 states that allows for partial or complete termination of parental rights for rapists.
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