Bill would ban adoptions by unwed couples in Tennessee

If bills introduced in the Tennessee House and Senate this session succeed in the state’s new, Republican-dominated legislature, unmarried couples — gay and straight — could be barred from adopting.

People on both sides of the issue say their primary concern is the welfare of children. But that’s where the agreement ends about who should and should not be able to adopt in Tennessee. Those who oppose the bills say they would leave more children lingering in a state system that has made strides since a court ordered Tennessee to more swiftly connect eligible children with adoptive families.

he first of several bills seeking to ban gay individuals and couples from adopting were introduced early this decade. In October 2007, the Tennessee attorney general issued an opinion that found no legal basis in Tennessee law for a ban on gay couples adopting.

The new bills target unmarried couples without ever mentioning sexual orientation. The bills do include a reference to Tennessee’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“This statute … allows the sponsors to say, ‘Well, we aren’t targeting anybody,’ ” said Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, which works for equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.