Tennessee lesbians want judge’s custody order overturned

Posted on 29 Dec 2008 at 4:39pm
By Associated Press

Judge’s ruling prohibits partner of 9 years from staying overnight with woman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A same-sex couple is asking the Tennessee Court of Appeals to lift a judge’s restriction in a child custody agreement that prevents the divorced mother’s partner of nine years from staying overnight.

The Tennessean reports The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief Dec. 23 with the Court of Appeals in Jackson on behalf of Angel Chandler, a divorced mother with two kids.

Chandler said Chancellor George Ellis of the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee imposed the restriction, called a paramour clause, in May without a request from her ex-husband and despite an evaluation that showed the children were not in harm’s way from their mother’s relationship. Ellis cited local law and precedent for the paramour clause, according to the appeal.

"This decision has been disruptive to our family," Chandler said. "We lived together in a stable, functioning family, and this was rather shocking to all of us. This is about the person we choose to be with. The judge decided to interfere, and it’s had a very negative affect in our lives."

After Ellis imposed the restriction, Chandler’s partner moved into a duplex near Asheville, N.C. Chandler and her daughter, now 13, moved into the opposite side of the same duplex. Chandler’s ex-husband has custody of their 15-year-old son and has remarried.

ACLU spokesman Paul Cates said the clause primarily affects lesbians and gays with children because same-sex civil unions are not recognized in Tennessee. Heterosexual couples can circumvent the paramour clause by getting married, Cates said.

"Unfortunately, this case is an all-too-familiar example of how unfairly lesbian and gay parents are treated in custody and visitation proceedings," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. "All the children’s health and welfare organizations have long recognized that lesbian and gay parents are just as capable of being good parents as straight couples, and their children are just as well adjusted.

"We’re hopeful the Tennessee courts will come to that realization, too."

Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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