The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday morning challenging North Carolina’s law that effectively prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six gay or lesbian couples from different parts of North Carolina who have one or more children each. It claims the state law violates the constitutional rights of children.
State law prevents unmarried couples from petitioning for adoption, and same-sex marriage has been outlawed in North Carolina for some time. In May, voters approved elevating the same-sex marriage ban as a constitutional amendment.
“Second parents” cannot file for adoption as individuals unless the legal parent of a child gives up all parental rights, under state law.
In 2010, the N.C. Supreme Court voided a state senator’s adoption of the son she raised with her former domestic partner, ruling 5-2 that state Sen. Julia Boseman's adoption was invalid. Her partner, Melissa Jarrell, was his birth mother.
Associate Justice Paul Newby wrote for the majority of the court that the adoption never legally happened. Jarrell sued to undo the adoption after the couple separated.
Boseman, who was the General Assembly’s first openly gay member, has since retired from the Senate.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday says it is unfair that the state allows heterosexual stepparents to petition for adoption and the courts consider those cases on their own merits.
Named as defendants in the suit are John W. Smith, director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts; Archie Smith III, clerk of court in Durham County; and David L. Churchill, clerk of court in Guilford County.