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Lesbians open up about Tennessee court battle over anti-LGBT law

Josh Jackman May 9, 2017
Charitey and Heather Mackenzie

Four married, pregnant, lesbian couples have filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee to strike down its new anti-LGBT law.

This weekend, legislation with the potential to undermine the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage was enacted by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

The law requires other statutes in the state to be interpreted by their “natural and ordinary meaning”.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam

It goes on to say that laws should be read “without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”

Though this sounds banal, LGBT advocates in Tennessee have warned that it could undermine same-sex couples’ rights in any law which includes the words “husband, wife, mother and father”.

Senate Bill 1085 does not specify LGBT couples, but supporters as well as critics have pointed out its intent.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday in Nashville by attorney Julie Tate-Keith, who is representing Charitey and Heather Mackenzie (pictured above), Crystal Dawn and Terra Mears, Elizabeth and Heather Broadaway, and Kathrine and Emilie Guthrie.

All the couples include one pregnant woman due to give birth in the autumn.

Tate-Keith, speaking on behalf of the women involved, stated: “The Supreme Court said that gay people could get married.

“If that’s to be meaningful, then same-sex couples have to be treated the same way that opposite-sex couples are, and that means parentage just like anyone else,” she added to NBC News.

And Tate-Keith made another salient point, saying: “If this isn’t about gay people, why are we talking about gay people?”

Charitey and Heather Mackenzie 2

She concluded: “Regardless of the actions of the Tennessee General Assembly, the right to be recognised as the parent of a child of one’s marriage is a right which deserves Constitutional protection.”

The bill’s Republican sponsor, Andrew Farmer has rejected the notion of any ulterior motive, saying last month that the legislation is “nothing to do with same sex marriage or gender.”

This denial falls on its face when confronted with the fact that Tennessee’s Republican Attorney General Herbert Slatery has noted that the law could represent a twisted way to outlaw same-sex marriage.

Writing when the law was being debated last month,

He referred to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal across the US, in the statement, written while the law was being debated last month.

Slatery said marriage laws could “be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the proposed legislation.”

Tennessee law decrees that a “child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

But following the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the state rightfully interpreted “husband” to simply mean ‘married partner,’ which of course would include lesbian spouses.

That interpretation could be made null and void under SB 1085, which states that “husband” means husband – and nothing else.

More: court, Law, lesbians, same sex marriage, same sex parents, Tennessee, US, US

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