Remember a year ago May when same-sex couples could only get married in some states, and then a month later the Supreme Court ruled we have the right to marry anywhere in this country?
Yeah, me, too. Well, since then we have seen all sorts of efforts to circumvent the law, or to just make it harder for The Gays to marry, and divorce, and parent, and nowhere is that more evident in Tennessee.
Last week, a Tennessee judge decided that the protections guaranteed same-sex couples by the Obergefell decision do not apply in his courtroom and so he refused to recognize the parental rights of a mother in a same-sex divorce case because she is not the biological parent.
Knox County Fourth Circuit Judge Gregory McMillan ignored the Supremes and ruled that because one of two mothers “has no biological relationship with this child” she therefore “has no contractual relationship with this child.”
It all stems from the 2014 marriage of Erica and Sabrina Witt, and the fact that early in 2015, Sabrina gave birth to their daughter through artificial insemination. Since, at the time of the child’s birth, Tennessee did not recognize same-sex marriages as legal, Erica Witt's name was not placed on the baby's birth certificate, and so when Sabrina filed for divorce she sought to deny Erica her parental rights.
Sabrina’s attorney argued that because a 1977 Tennessee law guaranteeing parental rights in artificial insemination cases specifies a “married woman’s husband,” the law therefore does not apply to Erica, a wife.
Judge McMillan, right, who made headlines 2014 for permitting a Knoxville baby to be baptized against her mother’s will — even though the mother had full custody of the child — sided with Sabrina Witt:
“I believe as a trial court I am not to plow new ground, but to apply precedent and the law.”
But not the law that states that these two women were legally married and both were parents to the child; semantics, I guess, dictated that Erica lose all rights to her child because she is a “wife” to Sabrina, and not a “husband.”
McMillan did put the divorce on hold to allow Erica Witt time to appeal; how kind of him, you know.
And don’t get me started on Sabrina Witt, who used the new law to her advantage by marrying her same-sex partner two years ago, but now wants an old antiquated law, and the word “husband”, to be used to deny her former spouse, her former wife, any rights to their child.
It’s really simply unjust; if Erica Witt, left, were a man, she would have just as much right to a daughter conceived via artificial insemination as her spouse. And even if McMillan eventually awards Erica visitation rights, his refusal to recognize her as a parent means she will have no say in issues including the child's education and medical needs.
She will not be that child’s parent.
Again, as I said last week, not all gay people are nice and perfect and sweet and kind. We, well, the Sabrina Witts among us, can be just as vile as anyone else. Especially in Tennessee which is still working to be the most anti-LGBT state in the union.