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One News Now

NC Supreme Court to Hear Case on Same-Sex Adoption in September

The Christian Action League filed an Amicus Brief in this Case
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s highest court will hear arguments later this summer in a custody battle that could well determine whether same-sex couples can legally adopt children in the Tar Heel state.

The Christian Action League of North Carolina joined a number of other public policy groups in filing an amicus brief in March asking the Court to rule that adoptions by unmarried cohabitants are not legal under the state’s adoption statues. The brief also asked the Court to end the practice established by the Court of Appeals of allowing unrelated third parties to get custodial rights over minor children simply because the child’s parent has allowed the third party to establish a relationship with the child.

Boseman v. Jarrell is a dispute between State Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) and her former lesbian partner, Melissa Jarrell, who conceived her now 7-year-old son by artificial insemination while living with Boseman. Although the Senator used an improper legal maneuver to obtain a decree of adoption from the Durham County District Court, the adoption was upheld by the District Court in New Hanover and by the Court of Appeals, which is how the case wound up at the N.C. Supreme Court.

The crux of the issue is that, according to state statutes, unless it is a step-parent adoption, a decree of adoption “effects a complete substitution of families” and “severs the relationship of parent and child between the individual adopted and that individual’s biological parents.” This keeps adoptees from having two competing and sometimes hostile families and from unwanted interference of the parents who placed the child for adoption.

In the Boseman case, Jarrell executed a waiver of the requirement and signed a consent to adoption in an effort to keep her rights and duties over the child even while attempting to give the same rights to Boseman. Such “second-parent” adoptions are illegal in North Carolina, but have happened more than once in Durham county, likely the reason that Boseman chose to adopt there rather than in her hometown of Wilmington.

Cheryl Howell, a family law expert at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government, told the News and Observer last year that district court judges should not see the Court of Appeals ruling on the Boseman case as a validation of second-parent adoptions, which are simply not allowed according to state statutes.

“Second-parent adoptions, besides being contrary to law, are bad for children,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We advised the Court in our brief that the evidence shows that same-sex parenting has a deleterious effect on children. More importantly, child-rearing studies have consistently shown that children are more likely to thrive emotionally, mentally and physically in a home with married parents of differing sexes.”

Sen. Boseman, the General Assembly’s only openly homosexual member, announced late last fall that she would not seek re-election to the Senate and wanted to spend more time with family as her current partner was expecting a baby. She ran for judge in the 5th District but was defeated in the May primary.

The Court is expected to begin hearing the Boseman-Jarrell case at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 8, with each side alloted 30 minutes to present oral arguments.