Tennessee legislators seek to limit adoptions to married couples only

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A bill has been filed in the Tennessee House of Representatives and the Tennessee Senate that would prevent anyone that isn’t legally married from adopting, making it impossible for gay couples or individuals to adopt children.

Tennessee House bill HB3713 by John DeBerry (D-Memphis) and Tennessee Senate bill SB3910 by Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) would amend the Tennessee Code (TCA Title 36 and 49) to “prohibit any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state from adopting a minor.”

Current Tennessee law does not require people petitioning for adoption to be married.

The bill wasn’t a surprise to leaders of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), who have expected an adoption fight this year.

“And we expect this to be the first of many bills to be filed on this topic before the bill filing deadline,” said Christopher Sanders, TEP president. “Our lobbyist has been working very hard on this issue. We are vigorously tracking all bills relating to adoption, foster care, custody and guardianship.”

In October of last year, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued the opinion that Tennessee has no constitutional obstacles for gay couples wanting to adopt children, as long as adoption is found to be in the best interest of the child (see that story here).

Sanders said the bills were not in the best interest of the children of Tennessee.

“They are based on prejudice and not in the best interest of our children,” he said. “It is time for the community to respond in large numbers and get ready to attend TEP’s Day on the Hill in February to express their outrage over the issues.”

TEP’s annual "Day on the Hill" will be held on Feb. 19, so that community members can meet with lawmakers about GLBT issues and concerns.

"We encourage everyone to participate," said Sanders. "Perhaps you’ve never met with your representative in person. Make a commitment to attend one of the sessions below and fight for equality right here in Tennessee. Learn how to address your representative by attending one of TEP’s Lobbying 101 sessions prior to attending Advancing Equality Day."

A Jan. 26, “Lobbying 101” training session was held in Memphis and included appearances by U.S. Representative Steve Cohen, Tennessee Representative Jeanne Richardson, Tennessee State Senator Beverly Marrero and an unexpected appearance by Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

The two remaining “Lobbying 101” training sessions are as follows:

Thursday, January 31, 6:30 p.m.
Nashville
East End United Methodist Church
1212 Holly Street

Saturday, February 2, 2-4 p.m.
Knoxville
Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville
7820 Redeemer Drive