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ACLU files lawsuit over N.C. same-sex parental rights

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit on behalf of six North Carolina same-sex couples who are seeking to give their children two legal parents.

The N.C. Supreme Court in 2010 banned second parent adoptions for same-sex couples, the ACLU said. A second parent adoption occurs when one partner in an unmarried couple adopts the other partner’s biological or adoptive child.

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

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, the ACLU said. 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,” Marcie Fisher-Borne said. “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; and 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.”

Wednesday’s lawsuit on behalf of the same-sex couples was filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

The other plaintiffs in the case are: Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa of Charlotte; Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith of Asheville; Shana Carignan and Megan Parker of Greensboro; Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck of Morrisville; and Shawn Long and Craig Johnson of Wake Forest.