Don Anderson-Fisher and his partner Kent have two adopted sons. But Don is the only legally recognized parent of 6-year-old Jamie and 1-year-old Jordan.
"The kids are deprived of a second legal parent," said Anderson-Fisher. "They can't have health insurance under Kent. Custody is not immediately awarded to him if something happens to me. They can't be Kent's life-insurance beneficiaries."
In Tennessee, unmarried couples are already forbidden to adopt children together, which is why some gay rights groups are confused about a new bill that would prevent any individual "cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage" from "adopting a minor."
Filed earlier this month by Representative John DeBerry and Senator Paul Stanley, both of Memphis, the bill is vaguely worded.
"One way to read this is, if you're living with someone and you're having sex with them, this bill would ban either one of you from adopting," said Tommie Simmons of the Tennessee Equality Project. "If that's the case, I'd like to know how they will prove whether or not a couple is having a sexual relationship."
DeBerry said the bill is intended to strengthen an existing law that prohibits two-person adoptions by unmarried couples. He says the bill will be amended to read more clearly.
"The way the bill is written mentions a sexual relationship. But how the devil are we going to tell?" said DeBerry. "I don't care what folks do in the privacy of their own homes.
"Whether you're heterosexual or homosexual, if you don't have a [legally recognized] relationship to each other, you don't need to adopt a child," DeBerry adds. "That does not ban a person from adopting a child, be they homosexual or heterosexual. They just can't adopt as a couple."
DeBerry said the bill is not anti-gay legislation. He said it's only intended to prevent child-support issues when an unmarried couple breaks up. But seeing as how the state forbids gay marriage, it's easy to see why gay rights groups assume the bill is aimed at them.
Stanley did not return calls by press time, but his website features an anonymous letter from a birth parent who put her daughter up for adoption in 1969.
"On behalf of all the birth parents who place their children for adoption hoping they will be given a better life, continue your fight against homosexuals adopting our children," reads the letter.
"We're not at all different [from a heterosexual family]," said Anderson-Fisher. "We have a house. We have a dog and a cat. And Jamie goes to school and plays Little League. I coached his tee-ball and his soccer team last summer. We go to ball games and we go camping. We're regular people."
Simmons pointed to the number of Tennessee children waiting to be adopted.
"Are they better served staying in foster care?" Simmons asked. "Or are they better served being brought into a loving home, regardless of the sexual orientation or the marital status of the couple wanting to adopt them?"