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NC: ACLU files second-parent adoption lawsuit on behalf of six families for the right to provide kids with two legal parents

In North Carolina, six pairs of loving lesbian and gay parents are fighting for what every parent wants: safety and security for their children. The ACLU is kicking up a legal storm on behalf of them.

A big lawsuit drops today in NC in the wake of Amendment One’s declaration that same-sex couples cannot be legally recognized in any way. The rights of children adopted by these couples (that means second-parent adoption)  need to be protected and this will be outlined at a press conference later today. Here’s the 411 (ACLU):

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit today on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children seeking the right to obtain second parent adoptions for their children.

A second parent adoption occurs when one partner in an unmarried couple adopts the other partner’s biological or adoptive child. This can occur in both gay and straight relationships. In December 2010, the North Carolina Supreme Court banned second parent adoptions for same-sex couples.

“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.” — Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, one of the couples in the case, have been together for 15 years and live in Durham. Each woman carried one of their two children — a three-year-old girl and a newborn boy. When their daughter was born, the couple was treated rudely by a hospital staff member who demanded their legal paperwork. If both women were able to be fully-recognized legal parents to their children, such encounters could be avoided.

“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. “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.”

Some of the protections that come with a second parent adoption include: ensuring that all children in the family are covered if one partner lacks health insurance, ensuring that families will stay together and children will not be torn from the only home they’ve known if something should happen to the biological parent, ensuring that either parent will be allowed to make medical decisions or be able to be by their child’s bedside if one their children is hospitalized.

“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.”

The full list of plaintiffs in the case are:

  • Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, Durham
  • Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith, Asheville
  • Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa, Charlotte
  • Shana Carignan and Megan Parker, Greensboro
  • Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck, Morrisville
  • Shawn Long and Craig Johnson, Wake Forest

Lawyers on the case include James Esseks, Rose Saxe and Gill of the American Civil Liberties Union; Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina; Garrard R. Beeney, David A. Castleman, C. Megan Bradley, W. Rudolph Kleysteuber IV, Daniel W. Meyler and Dustin F. Guzior of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; and Jonathan D. Sasser and Jeremy M. Falcone at Ellis & Winters LLP.

You can learn more about the couples here. Here is a video about Shana and Megan’s story:

More resources from the coalition of the Human Rights Campaign,, Family Equality Council, ACLU, and the Movement Advancement Project:
* New Guide Offers Allies Resources for Talking About Adoption by LGBT Parents
* Discriminatory Policies Deny Forever Homes to Thousands of Foster Children Awaiting Adoption

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding