N.C. Readies Marriage Ban Challenge

Six couples have joined a legal challenge to the state's laws that discriminate against gay couples and families

BY Michelle Garcia

July 10 2013 5:40 PM ET

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne with their children

Six gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina will join the legal challenge against their state's ban on marriage equality, particularly the right for same-sex couples to adopt children together.

The couples have partnered up with the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as its chapter in North Carolina, to amend an existing federal lawsuit, which was filed against the state last year. It challenges a state law that claims same-sex couples cannot be recognized as equal parents of children. The ACLU is also asking for an additional claim against Amendment One, the ballot measure that voters approved last year, that designates marriage only for heterosexual couples.

The lawsuit includes Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, a couple that was legally wed in Washington, D.C., in 2011, but their marriage is not recognized by state law. Each of the women birthed their children -- a 5-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy -- and when their daughter was born, the couple met resistance from a hospital staff member who demanded their legal paperwork.

“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” said Chantelle Fisher-Borne. “We declared our love and commitment to each other years ago, but 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.”

On Tuesday the ACLU also announced a federal challenge to Pennsylvania’s marriage ban, as well as a joint challenge with Lambda Legal of Virginia’s marriage ban. The legal action also follows the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, thereby allowing the federal government to extend benefits and responsibilities that heterosexual couples receive through marriage.

“From President Obama and Senator Hagan’s endorsements to the recent landmark Supreme Court decision declaring the so-called Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, support for the freedom to marry has moved forward by leaps and bounds," said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCLF. "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.”

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