Most GOP legislators try again to get involved in same-sex divorce case

Seventy-one Republican state legislators – 52 representatives and 19 senators – on Friday filed a new motion to intervene in a child custody dispute between two Knoxville women who married outside the state, then sought a divorce after living in Tennessee.

It’s the second such motion; the first was filed in September, 2016,  with 53 Republican legislators signing on to the effort launched by David Fowler, executive director of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, the state’s largest Christian conservative group. This one makes a point of involving Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who has filed a brief in the matter that Fowler disputes.

The case revolves around a 1977 state law that says, “”a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.” The trial court judge decided that use of the word “husband” excludes women; therefore only the biological mother has parental rights and her spouse (or ex-spouse) has none. The ruling is on appeal and Slatery’s brief basically contends the judge was wrong; that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling means state laws are “invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.”

Fowler’s review of new filing – including the subhead “Legislators to the rescue” — is HERE. The Nashville Post’s Cari Wade Gervin has a report HERE, which includes from Fowler comments. An excerpt from the latter:

The Knoxville couple, Erica and Sabrina Witt, were legally married in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalizing gay marriage everywhere — which meant when their child was born in Tennessee, as the non-biological parent, Erica’s name was not placed on the birth certificate.

…Slatery’s interpretation has infuriated FACT president David Fowler, who, when announcing the new motion Friday, ranted about judges as “a black-robed oligarchy.”

“What our attorney general seems not to understand is that substituting the word ‘spouse’ for the word ‘husband’ is a change in the underlying public policy reflected in the statute. It is a change from a belief that complementarity exists between the biological sexes and that it has value in the nurture of a child to a belief that there either is no complementarity between the sexes or, if there is, it makes no difference in the life of a child,” Fowler wrote.

…The motion to intervene states, in part, that the legislators “interest will be impeded, impaired, restricted, and/or nullified” if “the Court intrudes on the policy prerogatives constitutionally committed to Movant-Intervenors by (a) determining for itself whether the complementarity of male and female is legally irrelevant and of no policy regard with respect to the interests, nurture, and well-being of the children of this state (b) applying that determination to the statute in such a way as to deprive children of the influence and nurture of a father, and (c) thereby establishing a juridical principle erasing the significance of the difference between mothers and father that is anti-historical, of far-reaching legal and policy consequence, and contrary to legislative intention.”

NOTES: The motion to intervene, which includes a listing of all legislators joining the action, is HERE. Previous post on the 2016 motion is HERE.

One Response to Most GOP legislators try again to get involved in same-sex divorce case

  • David says:

    David Fowler is nothing but an extremist religious bully. If he can’t get his way, he will send out misleading information to the legislators’ churches trying to blackmail them. He does not stand for true Christian values of love and compassion. He only eschews hate and extremism.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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