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Gay couples may not face adoption hurdles in Tennessee

by Kristin M. Hall
Friday Oct 12, 2007
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The state constitution in Tennessee does not prohibit gay couples from adopting children, the state attorney general said in an opinion released Thursday.

Attorney General Bob Cooper wrote that same-sex couples are eligible to adopt children as long as the adoption is found to be in the best interest of the child.

The opinion had been requested by Wilson County Circuit Judge Clara Byrd, who did not return a call seeking comment about why she had asked for the opinion.

The Tennessee Constitution does not mention adoption, and Cooper found there were no current laws that specifically bar gay couples from adopting.
Cooper said under current state law, adoptions may be granted to any prospective parent who is at least 18 years old. No one is required to be married. Before making a final adoption order, a judge "must find that (the adoptive parents) are fit persons to have the care and custody of the child," Cooper wrote.

"Assuming the adoption is found to be in the best interest of the child ... there is no prohibition in Tennessee statutes against adoption by a same sex couple."

Former state Rep. Chris Clem, a Lookout Mountain Republican, sponsored a bill in 2005 seeking a ban on gay adoptions. It was later watered down to give preference to heterosexual, married couples over singles, but it was voted down in committee. "I don’t think the AG’s opinion clears it up at all," said Clem. "I think it would be better for the law to give a little more direction than that."

Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, said there may be another push in the General Assembly to get adoption laws changed to ban adoption by gay couples.

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