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Judge in same-sex divorce case rules woman has no parental rights

A Tennessee judge has issued a ruling in a same-sex divorce case involving custody of the two women’s daughter that is garnering national attention. The couple were legally married in Washington D.C. in 2014 before moving to Tennessee and establishing their residence there. The couple decided to use artificial insemination via an anonymous sperm donor to get pregnant with their first child. One of the women gave birth to the child in January 2015.

At the time, same-sex marriage was still illegal in the state, so the other woman’s name was never put on the child’s birth certificate. This wasn’t a problem until February of this year when the biological mother of the child filed for divorce from her partner. The biological mother’s attorney argued in court that the state laws on artificial insemination indicate that parental rights are only awarded to husbands. The law is from 1977.

The other woman’s attorney argued that because same-sex marriage was now legal across the country that the artificial insemination law was unconstitutional and therefore not applicable to the proceedings. The attorney further argued that the woman had been deeply involved in raising the child and was committed to continuing to be a part of the child’s life.

The judge, however, ruled in favor of the biological mother, indicating that it would be up to a higher court to decide if the wording of the current law must be interpreted literally. The other woman will be able to appeal the case and file for visitation rights as any other stepparent would have to do. As the ruling stands, however, she will not be able to have any input in any decisions made regarding the child’s location, education or medical care.

Source: Lexington Herald Leader, “Judge: Woman has no rights to child in same-sex divorce case,” June 24, 2016

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