Tennessee lawmakers are defending a bill that critics said would de-legitimize children conceived via artificial insemination.
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and Sen. Joey Hensley issued a joint statement earlier this week pushing back against what they call "extremely inaccurate interpretations" portrayed by the media regarding an artificial insemination bill they are proposing.
"These reports upset the many husbands and wives who struggle with fertility by reporting that repealing the law would ‘label the child as illegitimate despite the couple being married and both consenting.' This is false."
According to critics, the two Tennessee lawmakers hope to repeal a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination—primarily those belonging to gay couples.
"Under this legislation," she continued, "Tennessee law would continue to provide that a child born to a married woman will be considered the child of her husband. By repealing the law, and relying on other Tennessee statutes that remain, the state will no longer intrude into how a woman conceives her child."
In a Facebook post, Weaver explained that her bill is aimed at same-sex marriage and not meant to de-legitimize children. "Unlike the law being repealed," she argued, "The remaining law that will now govern the situation does not have the government inquiring into the means by which the couple's child came into existence or whose sperm, the husband's or a donor's, was used."
"Children who are artificially inseminated ARE NOT ILLEGITIMATE," she concluded.
Strange sentence construction aside (children are conceived through artificial insemination, not (we hope!) artificially inseminated), the bill doesn't have all children's best interests in mind.
Though Weaver stands by her claim that the bill does not address same-sex couples, others warn that changing the law could prevent both parents from appearing on a child's birth certificate. This could be a deal-breaker when it comes to proving the legitimacy of children for educational and medical needs.
"It would affect lesbian couples in particular," said Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. "If you have two women who are married and one is the birth mother, the other one is presumed to be the parent in Tennessee."
Sanders also believes that this bill, if passed, would make it harder for heterosexual couples to prove paternity.
"What if you didn't tell your family and friends you were getting fertility treatment?" he questioned. "It just creates more hardship, more hoops to jump through."
Either way, the bill seems to be generating a lot of confusion due to verbiage in current state laws where "husband" and "wife" supersede "spouse." Perhaps the key to changing a bill without offending an entire nation should be given to the editor-in-chief and not put in the hands of the Senate.