Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tennessee GOP Has Declared War on Same-Sex Families

Here in Virginia, at least for the moment, LGBT citizens are protected from the worse hatred and bigotry that Republicans and their Christofascist puppeteers due to the fact that we currently have a Democrat governor and attorney general.  After the November, 2017, elections, that could frighteningly change if the Democrat base does not mobilize and get to the polls.  In other Southern states, we are already seeing what the consequence for LGBT Virginians might look like and it is not pretty.  Tennessee offers a particularly ugly example of the efforts being done to strip away legal rights and protections won by same sex couples through marriage and underscores the viciousness of the "godly folk" who cannot tolerate the very existence of those who do not subscribe to their myth and legend based beliefs.   Sadly, among those targeted are the children of same sex couples whose security, safety and access to heath care coverage means nothing to the members of the Christian Taliban.  A piece in Salon looks at the coordinated attacks on same sex families in Tennessee.  Here are excerpts:
Heather MacKenzie bought her wedding ring at Wal-Mart. MacKenzie, now 38, proposed to her wife, Charitey, by driving to the top of Tiger Hill in Murfreesboro, a town located near the couple’s Tennessee home. . . . The pair said “I do” in June 2015, just days after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized marriage between same-sex couples in their state. The MacKenzies were wed in Nashville in front of the courthouse under a magnolia tree.
Over a year later, the couple are expecting a child: Charitey is 12 weeks pregnant with a son. A trio of recently proposed laws, however, could jeopardize the future of their growing clan. This legislation seeks to erase any hint of legal recognition for LGBT couples in Tennessee, all but declaring war on the families of same-sex parents living in the state.
Filed by State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, House Bill 1406 would prevent a couple from listing on the birth certificate the second parent (the spouse not giving birth) after a woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination. The legislation would nullify a provision of the Tennessee Code Annotated 68-3-306, which was issued as part of the Vital Records Act of 1977. The law states, “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.”
If Weaver’s bill passes, Heather would not be considered the legal guardian of the child on the way. In order to gain that status, she would have to file for a second-parent adoption, a process that’s both costly and time intensive.
If Charitey were to be in a car wreck, for instance, Heather could make legal decisions for her but not for their expected child. The  newborn would have no rights to Heather’s inheritance or her insurance — an added complication for the couple. If HB 1406 were to be passed, it would go into effect on July 1, three months before Charitey is expected to give birth. Heather receives health care benefits through her workplace, but if the new baby would not be longer eligible for that coverage, who would pay for the hospital costs?
The legislation leaves a terrifying number of unanswered questions, few of which have been answered by HB 1406’s authors. Although Weaver claimed in a Facebook post that the legislation is not intended to target same-sex families, she didn’t address the fact that her bill does exactly that.
HB 1406 isn’t the only bill, however, that would make lives more difficult for same-sex couples in the state. Republican state Rep. Mark Pody has refiled House Bill 892, also known as the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. Voted down by the General Assembly last year, the legislation seeks to override the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex unions in favor of the state’s definition — or lack thereof. In 2006, 81 percent of voters cast a ballot saying that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
In addition, there’s also House Bill 33. Sponsored by state Reps. Janice Bowling and John Ragan, the bill would “[require] that the words ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘mother,’ and ‘father’ be given their natural and ordinary meaning” in any legal or legislative context.  According to The Tennessean, HB 33 could have extreme, sweeping effects on same-sex couples in the state, erasing the rights and benefits afforded to their relationships at every turn.
[E]ven if these three discriminatory pieces of legislation are unconstitutional, it “could take years before they are overturned,” as Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, explained. In the interim, they could do enormous damage to the lives of LGBT families. For instance, HB 33 would stipulate that if one member of a same-sex couple dies, he or she doesn’t have to be treated as a legal spouse possessing the same property rights granted heterosexual couples. And because he or she wouldn’t be recognized under the traditional definitions of “husband” or “wife,” the surviving partner could be forced out of the home they shared.
“The real victims will be the children of same-sex couples and of all couples who are conceived by means of fertility clinics,” Littrell said, noting that the artificial insemination bill would also affect opposite-sex parents. “It seems awfully counterproductive.”
[T]hese bills hurt everyone, they are part of a targeted legislative push to make LGBT Tennesseans feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own state. This trinity of anti-marriage legislation coincides with the re-introduction of a bathroom bill, filed by Rep. Pody and state Sen. Mae Beavers, intended to prevent trans people from using the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. A similar law had been considered last year but tabled following overwhelming backlash — much like the controversy that has followed North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
While LGBT people in the South have been fighting against right-wing bigotry for decades, Melissa Snarr said it feels “brutally personal” this time. “We’re used to that sort of thing in Tennessee, but after the election, it’s become even more brutal,” said Snarr, who teaches at Vanderbilt University’s School of Divinity.

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