No Gay Marriage: No Gay Adoption?

Same-sex parents fight North Carolina for equal rights.
by Julia Haskins
One family voices their opposition to Amendment One. Photo by Daniel Lobo on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Most people know Amendment One as the law that codified North Carolina’s opposition to same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution. But the law’s effects are far-reaching, especially when it comes to kids. Amendment One’s passage has made it especially challenging for LGBT couples in North Carolina to adopt.

“If Amendment One had failed, it wouldn’t have given us equality,” says Mike Meno, communications director for the ACLU of North Carolina. Same-sex marriage was illegal in the state before the legislation passed, and its defeat would not have expanded LGBT rights. But because Amendment One explicitly bans all civil unions, second-parent adoption rights will now be harder to attain for unmarried couples.

As it stands in the state, only one person in a same-sex relationship can be the legal guardian of an adopted child, even if both parents will raise the child. The same goes for opposite-sex couples; if they are unmarried, the child belongs to one biological parent or one adopted parent. The other has no legal responsibility for the child.

This is why the ACLU wants to give couples access to second-parent adoption, which gives both parents equal legal rights to their children. In June, the ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of six couples seeking second-parent adoption to ensure that both moms or both dads have equal rights under the law for their own children.

“This is a fight that we’ve been in for a long time,” Meno says. “We’re continuing that campaign by trying to mitigate any potential harm the Amendment could cause.”

One major criticism of the Amendment is its wording, particularly the “domestic legal union” stipulation, meant to ban any other legal partnerships that resemble marriage for same-sex couples.

“‘Domestic legal union’ is not a phrase that has ever been defined in North Carolina ever, so it’s very sloppy to insert something into the constitution that no court has defined, that no law has defined,” Meno says. “We think the impact is limited and we’re going to work very strongly to make sure the impact of Amendment One is very limited, but obviously having that kind of vague language in the state constitution is just a bad idea.”

To educate people about LGBT rights, the ACLU of North Carolina created the Know + LoveCampaign to show real people hurt by Amendment One.

“It’s to introduce LGBT North Carolinians to their friends, to their neighbors, to their family members, because research and common sense say that if somebody knows and loves a gay or lesbian person, they’re much more likely to be supportive of LGBT rights,” Meno says. “These are the people whose rights are at stake.”

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© 2012 Medill Equal Media Project
Medill School of Journalism | Northwestern University
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