Tennessee Attorney General says gay couples can adopt children

The Associated Press has reported that Tennessee has no constitutional obstacles for gay couples wanting to adopt children, according to an attorney general's opinion released today.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Bob Cooper issued the opinion, which says that same-sex couples should be eligible to adopt children as long as adoption is found to be in the best interest of the child.

Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the group welcomed the legal opinion, but would continue to watch the upcoming legislative session to monitor lawmakers.

"The Tennessee Equality Project applauds the opinion of the Attorney General, and we will continue to watch developments around adoption very closely when the General Assembly reconvenes in January," Sanders said.

In 2005 state Republicans (and one Democrate) sponsored a bill that would prohibit same sex adoption. The bill was killed in the House Children and Family Affairs Committee on an 11-9 vote.

The Nashville City Paper has reported that House Republicans will attempt to outlaw same sex adoption with the 2008 legislative session (the General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 8).

The City Paper reported that Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove) said he or one of his colleagues would try to ban same sex adoption again this year.

“Children should only be adopted by a man and a woman,” Casada told the City Paper. “That’s what we’ve built our society upon is a man and a woman raising the next generation. And it works.”

Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), the vice chair of the Children and Family Affairs Committee, told the City Paper she disagrees.

The state constitution makes no reference to adoption, meaning that the process is governed solely by statutes, reported the Associated Press.

"There is nothing on the face of adoption statutes which precludes the joint adoption of a child by a same sex couple," Cooper wrote in the opinion.

“No one wins by putting up artificial barriers between children who need parents and parents who want to love and raise them,” said local attorney Ben Papa. “I think the Attorney General is exactly right and his opinion is in line with many other states. The process of adoption is a stringent one, no matter the sexual orientation of the adopting parent or parents.”

Tennessee law does not require people petitioning for adoption to be married.

“If they (gay couple) jump through all of the hoops set up in the statute and the judge finds that it is in the children’s best interest for the adoption to go through, then it should go through,” Papa said.

The AP said AG opinion was requested by Wilson County Circuit Judge Clara Byrd. Because those cases (family law involving children) are typically sealed, it remains unclear as to why she requested the ruling.

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