Appeals court rejects legislators’ intervention in lesbian couple’s child custody dispute

The state Court of Appeals has rejected an attempt by 52 state representatives and 19 state senators to intervene in a divorce dispute over child custody between Sabrina Witt and Erica Witt, two Knoxville women who were married in Washington, D.C., reports the News Sentinel.

The opinion, written by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Swiney also declares that the legislators should pay costs involved in appealing the trial court’s decision dismissing their motion to intervene.

“While the (legislators) apparently wish to force the actual parties to the suit, Sabrina and Erica, to continue their dispute in court, those parties have chosen not to do so,” Swiney wrote.

“Put simply, the divorce case is over, and there is no lawsuit left in which to intervene,” he wrote.

Knox County 4th Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan – in the first such ruling in the state – in May granted Erica Witt the legal rights of a husband and father of the couple’s daughter, conceived through artificial insemination.

The couple were the first in the state to seek a divorce after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015 conferred marital rights to same-sex couples.

If Erica Witt had been a man, her parentage of the couple’s daughter would not have been an issue. There’s a specific law on artificial insemination cases, but it was written well before the same-sex ruling and referred to a “husband and wife.”

Erica Witt’s attorney, Virginia Schwamm, argued the Supreme Court’s ruling made that law unconstitutional.

Lawmakers, using a conservative legal group, sought to intervene in the Witts’ divorce – while at the same time pushing through a law that ordered courts to give “natural meaning” to words such as mother and father.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery opined that law was unconstitutional. He also argued the state’s law on artificial insemination was flawed, too – unless judges used “gender-neutral” labels instead of “husband and wife” or “mother and father.”

McMillan refused to allow the legislators to intervene. They appealed.

The appellate court this week backed McMillan’s decision, saying the legislators had no right to involve themselves in citizens’ private lives.

“All of these issues are private rights and claims personal to the parties to the (divorce),” the opinion stated. “The actual case, a divorce, simply does not involve issues of great importance to the public and the administration of justice.”

Note: The full opinion is HERE. Previous post HERE.


4 Responses to Appeals court rejects legislators’ intervention in lesbian couple’s child custody dispute

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    The US Congress should, 1-limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts to rule on marriage issues; 2-dissolve some of these leftest district courts;’ 3-impeach a few judges.
    Perhaps same for the TN Taliban Legislature

  • Avatar
    William Upton says:

    Why should they even have kids?

  • Avatar
    Tommy Ray McAnally says:

    IS THIS ALL THE STATE REPS AND STATE SENATORS HAVE TO DO? WHAT ABOUT GETTING RID OF ALL THE ILLEGALS IN TENNESSEE! FOLKS VOTE ALL LEGISALORS OUT. Part of #MeToo. Anyone but Black,Blackburn, Mathney,Cooper,Alexander,Dagaria, and any of millionaires running for Governor Of Tennessee.Thanks.

    • Avatar
      Kay White says:

      Thank you Tommy Ray for your support. I feel that it is ok to be wealthy if you came by it through hard work and sacrifice. However, I have worked hard most of my life and I am not wealthy. In fact, I live in a nice home which my second husband has provided (my first husband who was a farmer is deceased) I worked two jobs when I was a single Mother to send my youngest daughter 7 years to school. One of those jobs was as a Realtor which I have been for the past 25 + years. And for the past 20 years I have continued to be a Realtor, remarried, kept my home clean and we grew a garden where I have had to be active in canning the foods usually between 150 to 190 quarts of Green Beans, pickled beats, tomatoes and usually make 6 or more runs of pickles yearly which we share with our children. Most of the preparation for these foods had to be done in the afternoon or night after my work at the Real Estate Office! I have remained active in Liberty Groups and the Republican Party – usually one evening each per month and arranged parades for some of them. I have also been a sponsor of rallys for things from Tax reform, to Stop Abortion, standing with the groups on corners waving homemade signs. I was the TN State Directror for Rick Santorum, 50 state grassroots director for Ted Cruz with SFP- securing 27 grassroots chair people in 27 different states before resigning, caring deeply for Ted but realizinghe had some unethical people working for him who talked a lot but worked very little, I resigned. After about a two to three wk. break, Donald Trump’s state chairman called and I agreed to be over East Tennessee as the director and surrogate speaker for him. My two closest friends and my husband were for him from the beginning. Was all of this easy? NO! not at all and did I have the money to do it? NO not at all – I actually spent my own money for Santorum only to have a sweeping win for TN and then he withdrew! However this proved to me that with hard work, and others believing as I did that we could work together and win together. I can only be Governor with people like you who know that it takes committed people sharing with others and the vote of the regular people (those who do not attend all of the meetings,etc but are working and vote) to win this race. The other four not sure who is wealthier, Black, Boyd, Harwell or Lee but all are millionaires and all have close ties to Gov. Haslam. I am the underdog but I have a strong faith in God, principles and I hope to prove that it takes the good patriots standing up and standing firm to break up this monopoly of the “Rich Rulling” – I am the only one who worked for and supported President Trump. I will also pledge to veto any new tax increases. The only tax I would be willing to sign would be a tax swap. That is to take all tax off of food items and put that tax over on “Choice Items” which are the alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, soft drinks, etc.! This would enable seniors to have more money in their pockets unless they have some of the “bad habits” mentioned! Food is a necessity. Gas to go to and from work, doctors, dentist, etc is a necessity. I was and am against the Gas Tax!
      These necessity items should not be taxed at all in my opinion. Thank You, Kay White

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