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What does "mother" mean in Tennessee?

It might seem like a strange question to ask, but regardless, two Tennessee lawmakers believe it is important to both ask and answer.

That is why they have proposed a bill that would create clear definitions of family terms in our state: mother, father, husband and wife. They say it will save taxpayers money in family law cases in which the terms can be ambiguous.

The proposed legislation was filed in the state Senate and House. If passed, it would assign to those four terms "their natural and ordinary meaning(s)" based on "biological distinctions between women and men."

The proposal follows a Knoxville child custody case involving same-sex parents.

The Tennessean points out that civil rights groups voiced immediate criticisms of the bill, saying it could harm LGBT residents and that the proposal is in reality an attempt to undermine the U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage across the nation.

A similar bill failed to make it through the Tennessee General Assembly in 2016.

Sen. Janice Bowling says her proposal would stop judges from "trying to tortuously redefine everything" as they grapple with same-sex family law cases. She said it's not out of the ordinary for lawmakers to define terms used in laws, pointing out past legislation that had to define the term "unstructured" as it applied to recesses for school children.

The executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project said the proposal "makes it clear they want to shut us out" of family law.

If you face a difficult parenting time issue or other family law dispute, contact Stanley A. Kweller, Attorney at Law to discuss your options and priorities.

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