ACLU to challenge NC's gay marriage ban

Posted July 9, 2013 10:47 a.m. EDT

— Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law on same-sex marriage, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that it plans to launch a challenge to North Carolina's ban on gay marriage.

The ACLU says it will amend a federal lawsuit filed last year on behalf of six same-sex couples where one partner wanted to adopt the other's child. The organization asked Attorney General Roy Cooper to permit the change, but it said it would petition the court to allow the change if the state doesn't agree to it.

Last year, North Carolina voters backed an amendment to the state constitution stating that marriages between one man and one woman are the only legally recognized unions in North Carolina.

“The past year has witnessed a sea change in the quest to secure the freedom to marry for all committed couples across the nation and in North Carolina,” Chris Brook, legal director of the state ACLU, said in a statement. “Conversations are happening at dinner tables throughout our state with more and more North Carolinians agreeing that the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage should not be denied to loving and committed couples simply because they are gay or lesbian. Our announcement today is the next step in that conversation.”

Marriage would help same-sex couples protect their children, the ACLU said, 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 their home 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 a child’s bedside if one of their children is hospitalized.

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, one of the couples in the 2012 lawsuit, were legally married in Washington, D.C., in 2011 and live in Durham. Each woman carried one of their two children – a 5-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy – but the couple met resistance from a hospital staff member who demanded their legal paperwork when their daughter was born. If they were legally married in North Carolina, such encounters could be avoided, according to the ACLU.

“Our children deserve the security of having both Marcie and me as legally recognized parents, and marriage is the best way for us to provide that to them,” Chantelle Fisher-Borne said in a statement. “The law in North Carolina does not recognize the life we have built together or allow us to share legal responsibility for the children we have raised together. We want to be married for many of the same reasons anyone else does – to do what’s best for our family, especially our children, and have our commitment to each other recognized by the law."