In May 2008 homophobic Gibson County Judge George Ellis, prohibited overnight stays of Angel Chandler xhildren from her previous marriage at her house while her current partner Mary Counce was in residence giving her the choice of her children or livng with her current partner of more than 10 years of living together.
The so-called “paramour clause” was first imposed Gibson County Chancellor George Ellis, prohibiting overnight stays by Counce. The restriction was not requested by Chandler’s ex-husband and came despite a psychological evaluation finding no harm to their children, who are now ages 17 and 15.
“I just thought it was insane when the judge said I couldn’t stay in the house from 11 to 7,” said Counce, who has two college-aged children of her own. “If we could have been married, I wouldn’t have been a paramour, but how can we be married when it’s not allowed? It’s a Catch-22 and Bigots like Ellis love that kind of stuff.”
Despite Angel Chandler moving North Carolina, Ellis maintained jurisdiction over the case since Chandler’s ex-husband continued to live in Gibson County. The Tennessee appeals court struck down Ellis’ ruling last year, but he issued a new ruling in March, again imposing the paramour clause, stating, “a paramour overnight, abuse of alcohol and abuse of drugs are clearly common sense understanding that children can be adversely affected by such exposure …”
In its Tuesday ruling, the Tennesee appeals court once again over-turned Ellis’s ruling and stated that this time Ellis had abused his position and power.
“The record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interests of the children,” the court wrote. “In fact, the record contains evidence demonstrating that a paramour provision is contrary to the best interests of the children.”
Chandler said Ellis effectively criminalized her relationship with Counce.
“He acted like a marriage certificate hanging on the wall equaled good parenting because that’s all he really cared about,” Chandler said. “(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.”
James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project.states that “Hopefully such a stern rebuke from the appeals court will send a loud and clear message to judges across the state that 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.”
Realistically as long as the bigots are out there we will always be fighting.