A Tennessee appeals court has agreed to reconsider a lower court order barring a gay father from "exposing" his son to "his gay lifestyle." The court of appeals granted the American Civil Liberties Union's petition for a partial rehearing of the case of Joseph Randolph Hogue. "We are very pleased that the appeals court has agreed to reconsider its decision," 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."
The case began when Cher Lynn Hogue filed for divorce in February 2002. As part of a divorce hearing, the lower court issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited Joseph Hogue "from taking the child around or otherwise exposing the child to his gay lover(s) and/or his gay lifestyle." Later that year, Cher Lynn Hogue filed a complaint that her husband had violated the restraining order by telling his son that he was gay. A judge agreed with her and found Joseph Hogue in contempt of court and sentenced him to two days in Williamson County jail. The court also stripped away some of his visitation rights. Hogue appealed to the state court of appeals, and in January the court cleared him of contempt because it said telling his son he was gay did not violate the restraining order.
But the court went on to say that the restraining order was valid--a point the ACLU found objectionable and asked the court to reconsider. "The judges on the court understand that this is a very important issue and not something to be brushed aside lightly," said Ken Choe, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "It deserves very careful examination." Choe said the appeals court could go so far as to reverse itself on the matter but more likely will delete from its ruling remarks about the validity of the restraining order. "It's most likely the court will say, 'Let's just take a step back and leave it for another day,"' Choe said.