The mainstream media largely downplayed the story, but despite our brothers and sisters in grays disinterest, gay and lesbian couples won a big court victory last week, a decision that was announced yesterday. Tennessees Court of Appeals overturned a 2008 ruling by Gibson County, Tenn., Chancellor George Ellis. He had ruled that Angel Chandler and her partner of 10 years, Mary Counce, who now live in Black Mountain, N.C., could not live together because it would be detrimental to Chandlers 15- and 17-year-old children. Ellis made the ruling even though Chandlers ex-husband didnt ask for the restriction, and an evaluation found no harm to the teens. Counce was specifically banned from overnight visits from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., ostensibly because the two women are not married, and thus Counce was judged to be a paramour, or adulterous lover. (We all know, of course, that married parents are always good parents and unmarried parents are always bad ones, right?)
Mary Counce, who has two college-aged children of her own, told the Asheville Citizen-Times, I just thought it was insane when the judge said I couldn't stay in the house from 11 to 7. If we could have been married, I wouldn't have been a paramour, but how can we be married when it's not allowed?
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that Ellis abused his discretion. "The record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interests of the children. In fact, the record contains evidence demonstrating that a paramour provision is contrary to the best interests of the children," ruled the appellate court.
Chandler told the Associated Press that Ellis acted like a marriage certificate hanging on the wall equaled good parenting ... (He thought) If you're gay, you're not good parents and the evidence didn't matter. There was nothing rational or logical about it. It was all just basically bias and bigotry."
Counce says shes happy that other same-sex couples may not have to go through her and Chandlers experience. James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, which took on the case for the couple, told reporters, We are relieved that the appeals court has recognized that restrictions like the one imposed on Angel Chandler can unfairly harm families raised by same-sex couples ... These kinds of restrictions are unduly burdensome on lesbian and gay parents who are just as capable of being good parents but don't have the option of marrying.
And if I may just add one comment, its high time that biased, homophobic judges started being held accountable for their bigotry by their respective states lawmakers or voters. One step forward at a time.