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Lawsuit meant to head off attack on LGBTQ rights

The executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project has expressed his support for a lawsuit that challenges a bill signed by the state's republican governor. Four lesbian couples filed the lawsuit against Gov. Bill Haslam, the state health commissioner and the Department of Health. They allege that the new law represents an attempt to stop judges from applying laws that cite husbands, wives, mothers or fathers in a gender neutral manner in cases that involve a spouse or parent. The bill instructed judges to interpret words in laws according to their "natural and ordinary" meanings.

By framing laws in the language used in the past before LGBTQ people had rights, the plaintiffs believe that the state government wants to prevent recognition of these marital and parental rights.

Critics of the new law call it the "LBGT Erasure Bill" because it could enable judges to interpret family law in a way that treats same-sex families negatively. As part of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited the unfairness of a law that recognizes a man married to a woman as the father even if he is not the biological parent. This law does not grant the same privilege to non-biological lesbian mothers.

Outdated laws often present barriers to gay or lesbian partners or ex-partners wishing to achieve legal recognition as an adoptive parent. An attorney who practices family law could recommend how LGBTQ people could pursue adoption. Information about their's strong relationship with the child or the child's biological parent could be documented by the attorney and presented in court. By building a case that demonstrates how this would contribute to the best interests of the child, an attorney might overcome legal hurdles.

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