A brace of bills in the Tennessee statehouse is aimed at rolling back gains made by during Obama administration
Monday, Feb 27, 2017
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 hill, a favorite spot for preteen sledders during the winter, looks over the entire town, as well as the vast expanse of the surrounding area. This was where the MacKenzies had their first date.
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. The couple is raising a daughter the two adopted four years ago and it cost $6,500 for Heather and Chariety to gain her custody.
“It’s a lot of money, especially after you’re preparing for a newborn,” said Heather, who works as a supervisor for an automotive distribution center in Smyrna. “And now you have to go adopt your own child. We know a lot of couples who have waited until their kids are in elementary school because they waited to save up to do the adoption. If something happens in between that time, it could be really harmful to your family.”
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.