We have talked a lot on this blog about the many challenges that same sex couples face when they attempt to assert their parental rights. Because the laws vary so drastically from state to state, these parents must take additional measures to make sure that their rights are protected in the event that their relationship or marriage ends.
In some states, legislatures continue to discuss changes to laws that would make it more difficult for same sex partners to start a family. For example, in Tennessee, the legislature is currently considering a new law that would greatly impact the rights of same sex parents in the state.
What is being considered?
First, a little background on what has been happening in the state regarding same sex couples. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that recognized gay marriage nationwide. Since that time, the laws in Tennessee have been read as gender neutral. Meaning, that when the laws used terms like husband, wife, mother or father, that they were not given literal definitions, but read as being more expansive to cover either gender in situations involving same sex couples.
Republicans in the state legislature have been attempting to make changes to these laws, by adding or removing text. For example, the state has had a law covering the parental rights for children conceived during artificial insemination for 40 years. The bill that has been introduced is attempting to remove one sentence from the current law which uses the terms "mother" and "father" that will impair its application to same sex couples. This comes on the heels of other bills which have attempted to add statements that require terms like "husband," "wife," "mother," or "father" are to be given their traditional meanings.
Critics feel that these changes cause significant problems for lesbian partners looking to start families. If the bill receives enough support to pass, same sex couples will not receive the same rights as heterosexual couples. Additionally, it might become more difficult for couples who are unmarried to assert their parental rights as well.
What do these changes mean for same sex couples?
Once again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to work with an experienced attorney if you are considering using assisted reproduction to start a family. No matter where you are located, there will be laws in place that you must understand before you begin the process. Failing to take action could leave you with serious problems in the future which would result in costly and time-consuming litigation, and threaten the time that you may be able to spend with your child, whether you are the genetic or non-genetic parent.