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Tennessee bill could affect same-sex adoptions

Tennessee same-sex couples might struggle to adopt a child if Gov. Bill Haslam signs a bill that would require the interpretation of laws to be done with the "natural and ordinary meaning" of words that do not have a specific legal definition. One result of this could be a mother unable to list her wife on a birth or adoption certificate that specifies that the two names on it should be a husband and wife or mother and father.

Civil rights groups have spoken out against the bill and say it is an attack on the 2015 national legalization of same-sex marriage. One lawmaker who argued in favor of the bill said that it was not clear what parental rights mean if there is not a mother and a father.

There could be a number of consequences. The bill might prevent surrogacy in same-sex couples. While opposite-sex couples might have confidentiality in court proceedings, this might not be the case in same-sex divorces. All women might be affected as well. For example, state law says that a man's property cannot be taken with cooperation or consent. If a law like this is viewed through the lens of the natural and ordinary meaning of "man", women could be excluded.

An adoption may occur in a number of circumstances including when a stepparent wishes to become the legal parent of a child or when biological parents can no longer care for their child and a family member steps in. Same-sex couples who are concerned about an adoption that is in progress or that is completed might want to consult an attorney about how a law like this could affect their parental rights. An attorney can keep people apprised of any changing laws and how they might ensure that both parents continue to have parental rights regardless of their sex.

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