The North Carolina Supreme Court voided a same-sex second parent adoption on Monday, which will effectively dismantle existing and future adoptions of the same sort in my fair state. This is a major blow to queer families in North Carolina, and will require legislative action to overturn. Lest we forget that North Carolina is below the Mason-Dixon line, square in the bible belt, let me remind you that Republicans took control of both chambers of the General Assembly in the November elections. Pretty bleak chances at a recovery for our families, who, without legal recognition, stand to lose social security benefits, access to healthcare, inheritance, and decision-making power on everything from school field trips to medical care. And without a legal relationship in place for a non-biological parent, a child of a same-sex couple could end up in foster care if the biological parent becomes unable to care for it.
Fundamentally, this case was about whether same-sex parents should be able to use the same mechanism to adopt a non-biological child that heterosexual step-parents are granted once they are married. Boseman v. Jarrell rules that since the biological parent did not give up her rights to the child as would happen in other types of adoption (but not required for married step-parents), that an adoption by the child’s non-biological parent is not legal. In other words, since queer couples do not have access to marriage, one parent has to abdicate her rights to the child before another parent can secure them. What infuriates me about this case is that courts already make rulings day in and day out that enable biological and non-biological co-parenting, but refuse the notion that same-sex parenting could necessitate similar legal status. We cannot get married, therefore our families don’t exist?
Predictably, Christian right groups filed briefs that supported the overturn and rallied their base on the issue. I can get over the fact that some people are going to be homophobic no matter what. Good for them. But our families are not theoretical and do not deserve to be casualties of a culture war.
The sadness of the ruling was magnified, for me, by utterly typical picture it paints of the couple’s original intentions while building their family. It affirms that both parents were good and fit, that both parents were equally dedicated to their creation, and that both parents intended to be lifelong co-parents upon the birth of their child.
But that’s not good enough. We have to be married, I guess. Oh wait, we can’t (and frankly, don’t want to be).
From the ruling:
In May of 2000 the parties initiated the process of having a child. They decided that defendant would actually bear the child, but both parties would otherwise jointly participate in the conception process. The parties agreed to choose an anonymous sperm donor and researched and discussed the available options. They also attended the medical appointments necessary both to impregnate defendant and to address her prenatal care.
Plaintiff read to the minor child “in the womb and played music for him.” Plaintiff also cared for defendant during the pregnancy and was present for the delivery. Defendant eventually gave birth to the minor child in October of 2002, and the parties jointly selected his first name. Following the child’s birth, the parties held themselves out as the parents of the minor child. They gave the minor child a hyphenated last name composed of both their last names. They also “had a baptismal ceremony for the child at the plaintiff’s church during which they publicly presented themselves to family and friends as parents of the child.” Further, each of the parties integrated the minor child into their respective families and each family accepted the minor child.
Within the home, the parties shared “an equal role” in parenting. Plaintiff’s parenting skills were found to be “very attentive, very loving, hands on and fun.” Defendant was found to be “very hands-on and patient in parenting” and to “reprimand [the minor child] by talking to him in a nice way.” As a result of occupational responsibilities, each party was occasionally required to be temporarily away from their home. During such an absence, the party at home would care for the child. Moreover, the minor child treated each of the parties as a parent. The child refers to plaintiff as “Mom” and to defendant as “Mommy.” As the trial court stated, the minor child “shows lots of love and respect for both parties.” “Each party agrees that the other is and has been a good parent,” and defendant even “testified that she thinks it is important for the plaintiff to be in” the minor child’s life.
As a young queer with a ticking biological clock and a hopeful non-biological co-parent to be (not to mention an adoring mother-in-law!!), this hits close to the bone. Between this and the absolutely vile death of the Dream Act, my righteous indignation is boiling over. I’m so disappointed; we can be so much better than this.
More about second parent adoption from the National Center for Lesbian Rights here.