Well-Intentioned Laws Used to Harm LGBT Across the Country

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What do Kaitlyn Hunt, Page Price, and Angel Chandler have in common? All three are in lesbian relationships. All three have had well-intentioned laws rip their families apart.

Kaitlyn Hunt, as you may know, is the girl in Florida currently being charged with ”lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16.” The “child” in question is Kaitlyn’s 15-year-old girlfriend, a freshman at the same high school. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough for you, it gets better: The two had been dating for some time, but the girlfriend’s parents waited until Kaitlyn turned 18 to press charges against her. They are using a law that was intended to prevent pedophiles from attacking young children to keep their daughter from expressing her romantic preferences.

Kaitlyn has until the end of this week to decide if she wants to plead guilty, which would result in two years of house arrest and a year of probation. This arrest record would stay with her, limiting her options for employment for the rest of her life.

In the great state of Texas, Page Price may even have it worse off. Just a few weeks ago, Dallas Judge John Roach determined that Price would have to move out of the house of her partner of several years. Carolyn Compton, Price’s girlfriend, had a morality clause in her divorce which “bars overnight guests who aren’t related by blood or marriage while the children are there.” Of course, in Texas, Price and Compton cannot get married, so the clause in her divorce is automatically set up to discriminate against Compton from seeking any serious same-sex relationships.

This apparently wasn’t an issue with anyone until Compton’s ex-husband—who, by the way, had been charged with stalking her—decided to ask for enforcement of that morality clause. Naturally, when faced with the choice of losing their children or Price moving out of the home, Price reluctantly agreed. The couple plans to appeal the ruling, but at an untold cost to them and Price’s family.

I’ll leave you on a bit of a happier note. In a similar situation in which a judge decided to enforce a “paramour clause,” divorcee Angel Chandler was told that her partner of 10 years could not stay a night with her because they were not related by blood or marriage. Again, this occurred in a state where they could not get married. This was in spite of the fact that “the psychologist who performed the custodial evaluation in the case found the partner to be a positive influence in the children’s lives.” Happily, however, this 2009 case ended when the ACLU stepped in and the appeals court upheld the rights of the lesbian mother, but not before they had to relocate to North Carolina so they could be together.

So what’s the point here? Even as gay marriage is gaining popularity, states continue to infringe on their citizens’ right to association—or the right to have the relationship of their choosing. Though these laws and divorce clauses affect heterosexual couples as well, it would not surprise me if they were unequally enforced on LGBT couples, almost necessarily so in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized.

The effect of these inequities are mind-boggling, and extend well beyond just the ability of one couple to get married. Hunt will be seen as a criminal for the rest of her life for a teenaged relationship, and Price may never get to live with her partner or her partner’s children unless they move to another state. While Chandler’s case sets a precedent for success in battling these laws, one may wonder why these laws are still in use.

These cases remind us why the fight for gay marriage and gay rights must continue to go unabated. The right to associate does not just affect the couple in question, but their children and ability to function in society as well. It’s about damned time for the law to protect lesbian women and their children, with attention to what is best for these relationships and families.