State News

ACLU: NC adoption laws unconstitutional

Posted June 13, 2012
Updated June 14, 2012

— A civil liberties group says North Carolina's adoption laws are unconstitutional because they prevent unmarried couples from adopting their partners' children.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of six North Carolina same-sex couples who support so-called second parent adoptions.

ACLU legal director Chris Brook says North Carolina's highest court in 2010 upheld adoption laws that exclude unmarried couples, both straight and gay, from jointly adopting children.

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

The lawsuit says second parent adoption is the only way a North Carolina family with gay or lesbian parents can ensure that both parents have a legal relationship with their child. Civil liberties groups say that children are at risk without such a relationship and can be excluded from benefits like health care.

Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck, of Morrisville, adopted two brothers a few years ago. The couple has been together for 15 years. They share a home and a dog and jointly parent their two sons.

But Zanaglio is the boys' only legal guardian.

"It saddens me that I'm the only one with legal rights when I know that Terri has worked just as hard as me," Zanaglio said. "We're absolutely equal parents in every sense of the word."

Morrisville couple joins ACLU lawsuit for second parent adoptions Morrisville couple advocates for second parent adoptions

The couple says they live with constant fear of what would happen to their family if tragedy struck – if something happened to Zanaglio, they wonder if Beck would be allowed to retain custody of her sons.

"Would my children be removed from our home? Would they be separated from each other?" Beck said. "We just want to be able to provide for their safety and their security."

The couple joined five other families on the steps of the federal courthouse in Greensboro Wednesday to protest North Carolina's adoption laws.

"We're here today because our boys need two legal parents," Zanaglio said. "We want them to have two legal parents so that, if anything does happen, this family does stay together."

The ACLU also cited the case of plaintiffs Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne of Durham, who have also been together for 15 years. Each woman carried one of their two children – a 3-year-old girl and a newborn boy. When their daughter was born, the couple said they were treated rudely by a hospital staff member who demanded their legal paperwork.

“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 in a statement. “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, that families will stay together and children won't be removed from the home if something should happen to the biological parent and that either parent will be allowed to make medical decisions or be able to be by a child’s bedside in the hospital.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow second parent adoption.


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  • magee43 Jun 14, 2012

    The ACLU is doing a great thing. All of us should be treated equally.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jun 14, 2012

    jurydoc: For one, many children have a biological father who may or may not be involved in the child's life. The mother may have remarried with the step-father taking on a parent roll in the child's life, but the step-father does not and should not be able to adopt the child unless the biological father decides to relinquish his rights.

  • jurydoc Jun 14, 2012

    This is not just about gay parents. It applies also to unmarried heterosexual couples with one being biological parent to a child and the other not. The non-biological parent cannot adopt the child and therefore have the protections that affords. It is an antiquated law based on antiquated views of what constitutes a "family." What could possibly be the rationale for denying adoption rights to someone who has lived with the child, loved the child, provided for the child, done no harm to the child, etc.???

  • kdawg Jun 14, 2012

    Ridiculous law. Good luck to the plaintiffs and ACLU for the sake of families. Is there another option, really? I mean would you prefer to rip children out of a loving unmarried household of 5-10-15 years and send them into the horrific foster care system, just because the unmarried couple wasn't allowed joint custody under some stupid law? Seriously? Are we living in the 21st century people? What is wrong with this state and the legal system that would defend such legislation. Ridiculous.

  • kermit60 Jun 14, 2012

    skinnycow: Yes. The only reason they want to adopt kids is because their relationship prevents them from having there own. They don't want to pay the price for being what they are. The price is no children.

  • kermit60 Jun 14, 2012

    The more this type of immoral stuff is forced on us the more I understand why our country is going down the toilet and the muslims want to kill us. I find it harder and harder to defend this country and the current government.

  • LikeABadPenny Jun 14, 2012

    "Separate BUT equal? You said that, not me. I say separate AND equal." - storchheim

    It makes for a cute little word game, but is essentially useless. It equates to the same thing, and claiming otherwise if an intellectually vacant exercise.

  • Mon Account Jun 13, 2012

    "What about simply drawing up a will? This would solve the problem. But it is not really about that, is it?" - monday

    Not so simple- you can't will live people to others. You can make your wishes known for when you die... but legally recognized familial relationships win.

    Also, a will won't help while one is still alive.

  • ncmedic201 Jun 13, 2012

    monday, drawing up a will could possibly solve some of the problems if one person were to die. But even with a will it is easy for the family to contest the will based on familial relationships versus non. Also, this does not solve the other problems associated with not being the legal parent of a child such as medical decisions etc. The only way to cover all issues is to allow both parents to be legally recognized as such.

  • monday Jun 13, 2012

    What about simply drawing up a will? This would solve the problem. But it is not really about that, is it?