ACLU Convinces Tennessee Appeals Court to Reconsider Order Barring Gay Father from "Exposing" Son to Partner

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
February 9, 2004 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union said today that is has convinced the Court of Appeals of Tennessee to reconsider a lower court order that prevents a gay father from “”exposing”” his son to his partner.

“”We are very pleased that the appeals court has agreed to reconsider its decision in this case,”” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “”Courts have no business putting gay parents in the position of having to choose between raising their children and having a loving, committed relationship with their partners.””

During his divorce, the lower court judge issued a restraining order barring the father, Joe Hogue, from “”taking the child around or otherwise exposing the child to his gay lover(s) and/or his gay lifestyle.”” In September of 2002, the judge found Hogue in contempt of the order and sentenced him to two days in jail after Hogue’s ex-wife complained that Hogue told his son that he was gay. The judge also significantly reduced Hogue’s visitation with his son and gave the ex-wife all decision-making power over the son.

Hogue appealed the contempt charge to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. In January, the appeals court cleared Hogue of contempt because telling his son that he is gay was not part of the restraining order. However, the court went on to say that the restraining order was valid. Following a request by the ACLU, the court has agreed to reconsider its decision.

“”For two years now, I have had to hide an important part of my life from my son. I hope the court will understand that visitation restrictions like these deny children honest relationships with their parents,”” said Joe Hogue. “”It’s hard to teach your child how to be honest and stand up for what’s right if you aren’t even allowed to be truthful about who you are.””

ACLU cooperating attorney Sam Felker of Bass, Berry & Sims in Nashville is assisting in the representation of Hogue. The Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the issue soon.

“”Restrictions like the one imposed on Joe Hogue are frequently forced on gay parents,”” said Ken Choe, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “”In addition, gay parents often agree to such restrictions without realizing the hardships that they will pose down the road. It is critical for any gay parent faced with the prospect of such a restriction to consult with an attorney who is experienced with issues specific to gay parents.””

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