Tennessee appeals court slaps down anti-gay activist judge – again

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2010

It’s hard to think of a definition of “activist judge” that would not have Chancellor George Ellis of the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee as Exhibit A.

In May 2008, Angel Chandler and her ex-husband Joseph Barker went before the judge to modify their parenting plan. But Ellis didn’t like that Angel was living with her female partner of nine years and decided that he was going to do a little legislating from the bench.

Now the 28th judicial district in Tennessee has Local Rule 23, whereby agreements have a “paramour clause,” a decision that denies custody or even visitation rights to parents who allow an unmarried partner to stay overnight. But this can be overridden by a court, something that Ellis decided he wasn’t going to do.

Now this is not the case of a judge siding with the straight parent; her ex-husband (who has remarried) didn’t ask for the clause or object to its removal. And it wasn’t over-reliance on a hostile child services worker; reports showed no harm to the children. This was simply the case of a judge going against the wishes of the parents and the children and the advice of the psychologist, and taking it upon himself to disrupt the life of this family out of his own personal biases and bigotries.

Angel’s and her partner moved into two halves of a duplex so they could live near each other but apart while they appealed the decision, but soon found the double households to be prohibitively expensive. But fortunately they won their appeal, with the court reminding Ellis that the state law requires the primary consideration for custody arrangements be what’s in the best interest of the children.

Well, Ellis didn’t need no stinkin’ law to do what he wanted to do, so he insisted that the paramour clause remain in place until he could have a hearing. Well in March of this year he had his hearing at which time he decided – without any evidence as support – that it was in the best interest of the children that Chandler and her partner be forced to live apart in order for her to have her kids visit. (Citizen Times)

“A paramour overnight, abuse of alcohol and abuse of drugs are clearly common sense understanding that children can be adversely affected by such exposure….”

(There is no mention of there actually having been abuse of alcohol or drugs, Ellis just sort of threw that in there for comparison. Ya know: alcohol, drug, lesbians – all just obviously not in the kids’ best interest to be around these things.)

So back to the court they went. And this time the appeals court was not amused that Chancellor Ellis had decided to impose his agenda over that of the law.

“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,” the court wrote.

So far I’ve been unable to locate any mention of this story by the usual crowd of anti-gay ranters. I guess their definition of “activist judge” is one who disagrees with them.

grouchy old gay guy

June 30th, 2010

but think of the children. No wait, he wasn’t thinking of the children was he.


June 30th, 2010

Amazing! When will it ever end?

Mike Camardelle

July 1st, 2010

I went through the same problems in Mississippi when I divorced 12 years ago. The Chancery Court Judge forced me to answer questions about homosexual acts with my partner. If not for my ex-wife, as hurt and angry as she was, this judge was going to take away my parental rights completely and force me to have supervised visits without my partner present. (Who, in the meantime, had developed a wonderful relationship with my boys and was almost forced to give special bond up.) Since we were still married, but legally separated, my relations with my partner were considered ‘cruel and inhumane treatment’. Thankfully, with some threats from a Lambda lawyer for out of state, and with the support of my ex-wife, the judge backed down ‘against his better judgment’.

The courts can literally put lgbt individuals at a severe disadvantage since the children are wards of the courts from divorce date to age 12, when they can make their own decisions about who to live with (but still has to be approved by the judge) and to age 18 when they transition out of the court’s care and jurisdiction.

I thank God every day that I stood with and for my children. I thank my now ex-partner for the love and care he gave my boys during those first years of insecurity and fear. And, 12 years later, I thank my current partner for his love and compassion accepting not only my children, but now grandchildren as well. Most of all, I thank my children, for loving their Dad, no matter what was said or done in those early days. Truly, I am a blessed father.

angel chandler

July 1st, 2010

To the author: best article I have read on my case yet. You are accurate in every regard. Thanks.

Timothy Kincaid

July 1st, 2010

Thanks, Angel.

Congratulations and I hope that this is the end of it and you and your family can finally get back to living life.

Regan DuCasse

July 2nd, 2010

This is never about the ‘best interests’ of the children, but how far courts, judges and the general public will go to hurt gay parents, or adults in general.

Which can actually come at the expense of or be detrimental to the children in the care of gay adults.

The cruelest, most outrageous child custody case I ever heard of, was in FL (which figures).
A man, convicted of killing his first wife and who served only seven years in prison for that murder fought for custody of a child he’d fathered with a woman he’d had a brief relationship with.

This woman was living with her female life partner, and both women had raised the child (a daughter) together this child’s entire life. The little girl had never met her father,let alone ever had any sort of relationship with him.

In their relentless pursuit of showing gay people who rules, custody was awarded to the father.

Can you imagine?
That the state saw it more fitting that a man with a history of violence against females, a murderer who was a stranger to his daughter, had more sway with the court and judge, than her devoted mothers.
Imagine the pain and fear these women had for their child.
Imagine the motives for a man to WANT to do this in the first place?

There is no end to how deep the spite against gay people goes. Even to place a child in a situation like that.

More specifically, it can be argued that such situations in which gay parents are in danger of losing their children is similar to what black slaves endured when they couldn’t keep their own children.
First because of their status as not being able to marry, un protected by the Constitution, nor assumed as equal in the eyes of the state.

There is a great deal that gays DO have in common with the civil rights (or lack of them) history of laws in this country.
Hiding behind children is a powerful rationale to maintain bigoted discrimination, but clearly no child actually benefits from it.

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