(No. W2010-01151-COA-R3-CV, Tennessee Court of Appeals for the Western District)
ACLU Attorneys: Christine Sun, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project; Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorneys: Brian Faughnan and Lucian Pera, Adams and Reese, LLP, Memphis (Direct Representation)
Petitioner: Joseph Marion Barker
Respondent: Angel Chandler
In 2008, Angel Chandler and her ex-husband appeared before the Gibson County Chancery Court to modify their parenting plan for custody and visitation of their two teenage children. The trial court judge imposed a “paramour provision,” which prevented Chandler from having an unmarried partner in the home during overnight visits with her children. Since same-sex couples could not marry in Tennessee at the time, this requirement meant that Chandler’s partner of ten years could not live at home.
Despite a court-ordered psychological evaluation finding Chandler’s partner was a positive influence on the children, the trial judge imposed the restriction, claiming that he was required to do so by local court rule.
ACLU appealed and an appellate court made it clear that the mandatory nature of the local rule was improper and that the trial judge should have based his determination on the children’s best interests.
In March 2010, after another hearing, the trial judge again imposed the paramour restriction. In June, a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals unanimously found that “the record contains evidence demonstrating that a paramour provision is contrary to the best interests of the children.”
The rebuke from the appeals court sent a strong message that these kinds of restrictions were unduly burdensome on lesbians and gays who are just as capable of being good parents as heterosexual couples, but who did not, at the time, have the option of marrying.
Tennessee Appeals Court Unanimously Upholds Rights Of Lesbian Mom (September 21, 2009)
ACLU Urges Tennessee Appeals Court To Protect Rights Of Lesbian Mom (December 23, 2008)
Barker v. Chandler – Decision (June 29, 2010)
Barker v. Chandler – Appeals Court Judgment (September 18, 2009)
Barker v. Chandler – Appeals Brief (December 23, 2008)