What Does Tennessee’s Natural and Ordinary Meaning Law Actually Mean?
Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam recently signed legislation requiring that Tennessee law be interpreted with their “natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” If you are wondering what exactly that means, you are not alone.
The law assigns the “natural and ordinary meaning” to terms in state law. Critics and civil rights advocates contend that the law is discriminatory. They argue that same-sex couples can be denied the same legal rights and protections that are given to a “mother” a “father”, a “wife”, or a “husband”.
Lawsuit challenges violation of rights
The first lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s new “natural and ordinary meaning law” was filed a mere four days after the legislation was signed by the Governor. The lawsuit claims that the new law is in violation of equal rights and due process, which are protected under both the United States and Tennessee constitutions. The petitioners cite concerns that the new law will be used to assign literal definitions to gender-specific words, and as such, one same-sex parent will not be recognized by the law.
What does this mean for same-sex parents?
The four same-sex couples that filed the lawsuit argue that Tennessee’s new “natural and ordinary meaning law” does not guarantee them the same rights as heterosexual couples. They note that, in heterosexual couples that have a child via artificial insemination, the husband is automatically given rights to the child or children. They argue they are not given the same protection under the law.
Not being recognized as a legal parent of a child has consequences that has far reaching consequences. Your child may be denied health insurance if your employer provides family coverage but you are not recognized as a legal parent. Only a legally recognized parent can make medical decisions for a minor child. Questions also arise concerning rights to child custody in the event of divorce, and the custody of the child if your spouse passes.
The lawsuit asks that the law be interpreted to provide that “the spouse (not just husband) of any married woman who gives birth in Tennessee is the legal parent of the child to whom she gives birth.”
Our Murfreesboro family law attorneys are here to help you
Tennessee’s new natural and ordinary meaning law is confusing. It raises questions regarding the rights of same-sex couples and how the law will be interpreted. Protect your rights. Discuss your concerns with experienced legal counsel. The knowledgeable Murfreesboro family law attorneys at Dotson & Taylor Attorneys at Law are dedicated to serving Tennessee families. We are here to advise you and guide you regarding the best course of action to take to protect your legal rights. To arrange a confidential consultation, contact our office online or at 615-890-1982.