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ACLU Files Suit Challenging NC Second Parent Adoptions Ban

ACLU Files Suit Challenging NC Second Parent Adoptions Ban


The ACLU this week filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions.

Second parent adoptions occur when one partner in an unmarried couple adopts the other partner’s biological or adopted children so as to be able to access the legal recognition of parenthood.

For several years family court judges in North Carolina had recognized second parent adoptions. However, in 2010 the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that second parent adoptions involving same-sex couples isn’t legal in the state because the state confers parenting rights as part of its narrow definition of marriage factored against biological parenting rights. This means that even though the so-called second parent may have raised the family’s children as her own for a number of years, a second parent would have no parental claim should the relationship dissolve or something happen to the designated parent.

For obvious reasons, this is a precarious and distressing state of affairs for any same-sex couples in the state.

Said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina:

“North Carolina’s law denies children the permanency and security of a loving home simply because their parents are lesbian or gay. This is fundamentally wrong. No parent should have to worry about what will happen to their children if something happens to their partner.”

The full list of plaintiffs in the case are Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, Durham; Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith, of Asheville; Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa, of Charlotte; Shana Carignan and Megan Parker, of Greensboro; Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck, of Morrisville; Shawn Long and Craig Johnson, of Wake Forest.

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, one of the couples, have enjoyed a 15-year relationship. Each woman carried one of their two children. However, when their daughter was born, the couple was treated rudely by a member of the hospital staff and was made to produce legal paperwork confirming their partnership. Had the women been able to establish themselves as legally recognized parents to both their children, this may not have happened and even if it had, a means to ending the dispute would have been more readily available.

“We were treated as if our family was less than other families during what should have been one of the happiest occasions of our lives,” said Marcie Fisher-Borne in an ACLU statement. “We don’t ever want there to be any question as to who should care for our children. If something were to happen to either one of us, it could tear our family apart.”

Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith, another couple who are plaintiffs in this suit, are raising two children together, 2-year-old Quinn and Joe, their baby. Crystal carried the children and therefore is recognized as their mother, but Leigh, even though she is the stay-at-home mom, can’t be recognized as a legal parent of the kids. Matters are further complicated because Crystal’s parents are against the pair’s relationship. If Crystal were to die or become legally incapacitated, Leigh would be a legal stranger to the kids and they have concerns that Crystal’s parents may not allow Leigh any access at all. You can hear their story below:

Another couple in the suit, Megan Parker and Shana Carignan (pictured), have been together for several years. In 2010, Megan adopted Jax, who has cerebral palsy, limited speech and mobility. Due to the second parent adoption ban, Shana can’t become a legal parent to Jax, and when Jax was hospitalized later that year, the hospital wouldn’t allow Shana to stay past visiting hours because she wasn’t considered his parent. Hear their story below:

“The current policy is discriminatory and doesn’t take into account what’s best for a child,” said Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “These parents want the same thing as any other parents: to be able to provide the best possible care and protection for their children. The law should not stand in the way of allowing loving couples to share responsibility for their families.”

Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have authorized second parent adoptions, while five states explicitly ban them.


Related Reading:

Rise Up Against Amendment 1 (VIDEO)

Bill Clinton: Amendment 1 Will Hurt Families and Drive Away Jobs

Newt Supports North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban

Ted Olson Joins Battle Against NC’s Anti-LGBT Amendment 1

Clay Aiken Speaks Out Against NC Gay Marriage Ban (VIDEO)


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1:35PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

Good for the ACLU. Glad to know they are on the ball. Thanks Steve for the article.

10:09AM PDT on Jun 18, 2012


10:40AM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

Just more proof that once the children are here in this world the religious right really doesn't care what happens to them

7:33AM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

This is heartbreaking. Those poor kids, too! It must have been horrible for the kid who was hospitalized and his mom couldn't even stay past visiting hours to comfort him :(

3:27PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

What's most important is a loving family for children. This law makes one of the parents not quite as much of a parent and that's wrong. The law doesn't protect the best interest of the children.

1:50PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Are those people crazy???? The important thing is that children have parents who love them and want to see them well-taken care of. Who cares if those are two men or two women??? What would the NC law say if it was two brothers or two sisters rather than two gays?? It's still two caring people providing a safe environment

8:49AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Good on the ACLU for standing up for the PARENTS. It's not just blood that makes a family-it's LOVE!

3:07AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

My oldest grand daughter has a living parent after my son adopted her. Her own mother died (lost her life during gall bladder surgery) if my son hadn't adopted, she would have no parents, and her maternal grand mother killed herself.

The point being, she has always been my grand daughter, if my son had been gay, I wouldn't have cared who he married, children are a blessing, they deserve parents, even if the parent isnt by blood but by love.

I am glad my grand daughter has my son as a father. That took a LOT of love and legal effort to accomplish. Seems funny the types who would block gays also dont allow abortions, stating children need to be adopted. They fail to say "Only by people we approve of, however"

12:27AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Thank you for this very interesting article.

5:18PM PDT on Jun 15, 2012


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