A Tennessee judge went over the wishes of a father by refusing to allow a divorced mother the right for her partner of nine years to spend the night.
The woman and her girlfriend are requesting the Tennessee Court of Appeals to remove an overnight “paramour” clause in a child custody agreement.
The clause was put in place even though the father of the two children did not request it by Chancellor George Ellis of the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee. An evaluation had also shown that the children were not harmed by the relationship. The clause has been in effect since May of the year according to mother Angel Chandler.
“This decision has been disruptive to our family,” she 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, not about what my ex-husband asked for or what’s in the best interest of the children.
“The judge decided to interfere, and it’s had a very negative affect in our lives.”
Efforts to reach Ellis were unsuccessful. According to the appeal filing, he cited local law and precedent for the paramour clause.
The ACLU believe that Ellis has violated the constitutional rights of Chandler.
The paramour clause is a tool that is used in the state to affect same-sex couples who have children by another marriage. While it is also used with heterosexual couples they can marry to get around it. In Tennessee that is an option not allowed gay couples.
“A straight couple in the same situation would have a constitutional claim,” Cates said. “But they can get married. Same-sex couples don’t have that, and Tennessee doesn’t recognize (gay) marriage outside of the state.”
After Ellis imposed the rule on the couple chandler’s partner moved out of their home to Asheville, North Carolina. Chandler and her 13-year-old daughter followed her. Chandler’s 15-year-old son lives with his father. The couple spends the day together but at night Chandler’s partner goes to the other side of a duplex they own to sleep.
“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.”