Civil Liberties

The Paramour Clause

The state vs. sleepovers


THE PARAMOUR Clause sounds like a sexy legal thriller, the kind of movie that involves a handgun tucked into a garter. Alas, it's nothing so glamorous. In several states, the term refers to a legal restriction in child custody agreements that prevents a divorcée's lover from staying in the house overnight while he or she has custody of children from a previous marriage.

Angel Chandler and her partner of nine years are struggling with the provision, since marriage isn't an option for them in Tennessee: They're both women. Chandler's ex-husband had no problem with their custody arrangement, and formal evaluations had concluded that her relationship presented no potential for harm to the two children. But Chancellor George Ellis of the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee decided to intervene anyway. Chandler and her partner were forced to rent both halves of a duplex to satisfy the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a brief on Chandler's behalf with the state Court of Appeals. Paul Cates, a spokesman for the group, told The Tennessean, "A straight couple in the same situation would have a constitutional claim. But they can get married. Same-sex couples don't have that, and Tennessee doesn't recognize [gay] marriage outside of the state."