Tennessee law vacillates between ignoring domestic partners and explicitly negating the validity of committed relationships between unmarried people, especially of the same sex. Unmarried or same sex-couples living in Tennessee should consider contracting an attorney to write a document giving the partners some rights in each other’s affairs.
Tennessee has a law and a constitutional amendment banning marriage between same-sex couples. Tennessee does not recognize any arrangement consecrated in another state other than marriage between one man and one woman. Furthermore, both the law and the constitution stress marriage as a legal and social contract with exclusive privileges, hence, domestic partnerships between heterosexual couples are also not recognized.
Healthcare and Decision-Making
The Human Rights Campaign reports that a partner can make decisions when the other partner is incapacitated if they are deemed “an adult who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient, who is familiar with the patient's personal values, who is reasonably available, and who is willing to serve." However, the partner can claim this right only if no member of the other partner’s biological family can be reached.
Tennessee includes sexual orientation in its hate crimes law. Unfortunately, gender identity is not included and other relevant areas of law – including those regarding changes in personal information – does not address the issues transgendered individuals face.
Domestic Partnership Agreement
Domestic partners can opt to create a domestic partnership agreement. Domestic partnership agreements outline partners’ shared responsibilities, especially for finances. Tennessee law allows individuals to create legal documents designating a person outside of the biological family to make decisions in the case that the person is incapacitated.