N.C. Attorney General Consents to ACLU Amending Lawsuit to Challenge State’s Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

July 12, 2013 12:00 am

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ACLU to Amend 2012 Lawsuit to Include Claim Challenging N.C.’s Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples; Request Still Needs Final Approval from Court

July 12, 2013

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RALEIGH, N.C. – Today the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced that it would not oppose allowing six same-sex couples and their children to amend a 2012 lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on second parent adoptions to include additional claims challenging the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina must give final approval for this amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the 2012 lawsuit, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, in Greensboro on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children, challenging the state’s ban on second parent adoption, a process by which one partner in an unmarried gay or straight couple adopts the other partner’s biological or adoptive child. Earlier this week the ACLU asked the Attorney General to consent to allow that lawsuit to be amended to include a claim challenging the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

“We are very pleased that the Attorney General’s office has agreed to this change,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples harms families and children in innumerable ways, from the momentous to the mundane. The loving families in this case want and deserve the security that comes from having a legally recognized family unit, and marriage will strengthen and protect their relationships with each other and their children in a way that nothing else can. We hope the court agrees to this change and allows us to present our case.”

Marriage would help same-sex couples, for example, protect their children by ensuring that all children in the family are covered if one partner lacks health insurance, 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 or legally recognized parent, and that either parent will be allowed to make medical decisions or be able to be by their child’s bedside if one of their children is hospitalized.

The move to amend the North Carolina lawsuit came less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in another ACLU case, United States v. Windsor, which found that the federal Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between one man and one woman was unconstitutional.

“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in Windsor, adding that creating a “second-tier” status for same-sex couples “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects … [a]nd it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in questions makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

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