Written by Aaron Kase
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing in North Carolina to overturn a law banning second-parent adoption, which effectively prevents LGBT partners from adopting their significant others’ children.
The lead plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit, Marcie Fisher-Borne, has been with her partner Chantelle for 15 years. Each birthed one child during that time. However, neither is the official adopted parent of the other’s child, thanks to a North Carolina law that disallows second-parent adoption if the couple isn’t married.
Effectively this means that LGBT parents can never officially adopt, although it has the effect of blocking co-habitating straight couples from becoming the lawful parents of their partners’ children as well.
“The ability for same-sex parents to adopt a child is a way to get around limitations where gay marriage is not legal,” says Kenneth Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Without that, you could be raising a child, something happens to the biological parent, and you have no legal rights.
“Even if an adult has raised a child for years or its entire life, without legal adoption there is no way to ensure continued guardianship if the biological parent passes away. “Basically you could get in a position where you have no legal rights to even see the child,” Altshuler says.
“This is one of the 1000-plus rights under law that a gay parent doesn’t have by gay marriage not being legal.”North Carolina recently passed a constitutional amendment noting that marriage between a man and a woman would be the only form of union recognized in the state.
State by State
The National Center for Lesbian Rights noted that at least 270,000 children are being raised by same-sex couples, a number that is probably under reported. According to the NCLR, Florida was the only state that specifically banned gay people from adoption, but the law was found unconstitutional in 2004. Otherwise, unmarried individuals in all states are free to adopt children whose parents have died or renounced their parental rights (pending review or approval by a court, of course).
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