These North Carolina Courts Hate Gays, Lesbians, Adoptive Parents, Possibly Everyone

If you’re part of a same-sex family in a state where gay marriage isn’t legal, your life is hard. If, for whatever reason, the parents in that family decide to separate, your life gets even harder – not just because of the separation, but because your total lack of any kind of legal legitimacy makes the logistical process of separating a total freefall, where everything you thought you could count on forever is gone and suddenly you don’t know what you’ll still have in your life the next day, if even your children will be taken away from you.

The one beacon of hope in these situations is second-parent adoption, which most states provide for same-sex and heterosexual families. A child with one biological parent can be legally bound to a second parent, creating a patchwork little family that is recognized by the courts, if not by society at large.

If you live in North Carolina, you just lost that one fragile assurance of stability. North Carolina justices have just de-authorized second-parent adoption, which affects not only same-sex parents but many adoptive families across the state.

…in a heartless decision, the North Carolina justices have ruled that this procedure is not authorized in their state. And, making matters worse, they are applying their ruling retroactively, canceling the adoptions that were previously seen as having been properly granted by local courts. Most state courts facing the same question have approved second-parent adoptions, and in the few states where courts have ruled otherwise (Connecticut and Colorado, for example), the state legislatures quickly fixed the problem. However, that is not likely to happen in the conservative legislature of North Carolina.

I don’t have a background in social work or family law; I don’t know much about the legal reality for adoptive families. I’m still left wondering, though: who could this possibly help? Is it even possible to see this decision as anything other than a calculated attack on adoptive families?

The justices did rule that the now non-legal parent would retain the right to seek reasonable visitation rights or even shared custody, which will be a boon to nontraditional families both straight and gay who haven’t pursued second-parent adoption. It’s true that those families have been left out in the cold by the system for far too long. But their due parental rights should have been granted long ago, and shouldn’t have come at the expense of other families. And really, anyone who’s lived with and cared for and fed and clothed and loved someone else for years should never have to settle for possibly getting visitation rights. This is damaging to families, and serves a political agenda instead of citizens – too bad the religious right doesn’t seem like they’re going to do anything about these anti-family values activist judges.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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    • hay now yall…
      who could say no to that lesbo capital called asheville? nc politics will come around, no doubt. my advice? take your shirt off and twist it ’round your head spinning like a helicopter.

  1. North Carolina is so fucking backwards. I wouldnt doubt if it was the last state to approve of gay marriage.. Which would never happen anyways. I need to get outta NC. I wanna adopt when the times right but who knows if something else in life will separate me and my partner. Grrrr..

  2. Fuuccckkk. I need to move. I don’t really want to have to pick cities to exist in by the level of gay-friendliness. Asheville, Raleigh, Greensboro, etc. are all great, but I’d love it if the whole fucking state could like me. I know that this problem is by no means isolated to North Carolina, but that doesn’t make me any less pissed. Gah.

  3. Oh FUCK. Living in FL, we’re still excited about the whole ‘gay parents being *able* to adopt piece’, but in practical terms, I’ve been really hoping that a court challenge would create 2nd parent adoption soon. Selfishly, that translates to ‘before my partner and I adopt’ (likely a few years from now), because the idea of one of us not having legal rights is creepy as hell. Now that this precedent is recently out there (non-binding, but still icky), I’m a bit more pessimistic about that happening.

    So I’m just going to focus on the awesome pic of Shannon & Cole with their daughter. The teensiness of the queer adoptive online world has its upsides!

    • Ok, so I would always do a double take when I saw your name, because my name is Alice too, but now I find out you’re from Florida too? This is just creepy…in the nicest way possible?

  4. fucked. so FUCKED. what are folks doing about this? what can we do? and NC folks dont leave it, make it better! please?

    • I won’t actually leave, because in the end, I’m compelled by powers beyond my own control to stick things out and fight for stuff which probably isn’t always a good thing in regards to my mental health, but whatever.

    • exactly! running away won’t fix anything. it’s up to the people to put pressure on those in power. so if all the activists and passionate people left NC, who would be left to make things better for those who’s voices need to be amplified?

  5. Why the hell does the government have any involvement in family life whatsoever?? People are questioning this decision, but they are questioning the wrong thing. They should be asking why government is making any kind of legislative decision about family life, and why we allow this to happen.

    I do not believe in government marriage of any kind – not gay marriage, not straight marriage, etc. I only support gay marriage because functionally and practically, gay people are getting their children, money, property, etc. taken away because they cannot get married. BUT. The state should have no say in marriage at all. It should be a civil agreement between the parties involved. You want to marry 987 men and 3897 women? Good, go do that. As long as you all consent, go nuts.

    Those 1,000+ rights that marriage “grants???” Guess what. Those things are YOURS to begin with. The state cannot selectively “grant” those things, like they are handing out prizes.

    The state dictates every aspect of our lives, including the most personal ones, like family. It controls who you can marry, who can or cannot be your children, who is fit to function as your parents, etc. We live in the Brave New World. We are slaves, and we like it, because we get to watch television as we are subjugated.

    Government marriage is a sorting mechanism that fixes our present hierarchical social structure into place, and it congeals the population into easily managed, predictable social units from which the state can extort cash.

    • I know I’m talking a lot about marriage here, but the same principles apply to adoption. Who should get to decide who people’s parents are? The state? It fucks up everything it touches.

  6. I’m so glad I live in NC. It’s comforting knowing that even if I can’t get a girlfriend I can always count on the government to fuck me.

  7. Dammit.

    I plan on adopting…most likely a cranky teenager who doesn’t have any one else. There are so many kids that need loving families. It doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation or gender is just that they be loving and care for the kid.

    …and as someone who DOES NOT plan on physically bearing a child (oh my goodness, no) but who wants children in their life — it would be imperative that I be able to adopt my partner’s biological child. That munchkin would be as much a part of my family as if I had carried him or her for nine months.

    Dammit, NC. I moved here on purpose (for a job) and this sucks.

  8. Times like these I love my state.

    The one good thing is that there’s a really detailed dissenting opinion that will potentially make it easier for a higher court to overturn this decision/for the NC supreme court to reverse its stance sometime down the road in another similar case. It’s worth slogging through legalese to read Justice Hudson’s detailed takedown of how ridiculous and blatantly made-up the majority opinion is.

  9. You are being a little gloomy and snarky in this case. The result did not change anything–both mothers will have joint custody of the child.

    Actually the court’s reading of the adoption statute is clearly correct. The parties were not married in any state or country–and I hope they were not using a child custody for the sole purpose of pushing same sex marriage–something I passionately believe in–just not something that should be litigated where the primary issue is the best interest of a child.

    The North Carolina Court did what other courts have done who have faced this legal dilemma and used the “psychological parent doctrine” to do the right thing–and award joint custody, which is what defendant sought. See and text of decision here:

    Five years ago a mother would have been laughed out of a North Carolina Court for making any kind of claim to a continuing relationship with a child of a former lesbian partner.

    The snarkiness here is not warranted

  10. Sorry Becky Chandler but some of us here in NC are really gloomy about this and for good reason. To have your adoption paperwork suddenly become invalid hurts to the core of your being. There is something VERY significant about being able to say, “Yes, we both are their LEGAL mothers” which was taken away from a lot of families. Will we continue to live our lives just as we have been for years? Of course. But that doesn’t take away the pain of the court removing legal guardianship for so many because of one messed up family case. For those of us who have been legally married in other states, we know it doesn’t count here in NC but the document is still important. I call her my wife because she is and have the license to prove it. Unlike Prop 8 in California where marriages were grandfathered in all adoptions will now be considered invalid if challenged, and that is a hard pill to swallow. My child can’t go to the school where I teach anymore because they are not “legally” mine. I cannot take care of doctor’s visits or anything else that requires a signature because again, they are no longer my child in the eyes of the law. This ruling has a lot of repercussions in the daily lives of families that did everything they could (including spending a LOT of money) to protect both parents and their children. No snarkiness here-just pain, sadness and uncertainty for my family.

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