By Tami Fitzgerald
Christian Action League
In a case before the State Supreme Court that is likely to determine whether same-sex couples can legally adopt children in North Carolina, The Christian Action League Of North Carolina (CAL), The American College Of Pediatricians, The North Carolina Family Policy Council, NC4marriage, And The Christian Family Law Association filed an Amicus Brief (or friend of the Court brief) on Tuesday, March 2nd. In the 55-page brief, the pro-family non-profit organizations asked the North Carolina Supreme Court to rule that adoptions by unmarried cohabitants are not legal under North Carolina’s adoption statutes. They also asked the Court to end the practice established by the Court of Appeals of allowing unrelated third parties to obtain custodial rights over minor children merely because the child’s parent has allowed the third party to establish a relationship with the child. The Amicus Brief follows a brief filed in the case on February 26th by attorneys who are appealing the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding the adoption by the mother’s lesbian partner.
The case, Boseman v. Jarrell, is a custody dispute between State Senator Julia Boseman and her former lesbian partner, Melissa Jarrell, over whether Boseman should have custodial rights to Jarrell’s biological son. Jarrell conceived the boy by artificial insemination while she and Boseman were cohabiting partners. Boseman obtained a decree of adoption from the Durham County District Court by an improper legal maneuver that has since been upheld by the District Court in New Hanover County and the Court of Appeals. Jarrell, the child’s biological mother, is now estranged from Boseman and seeks to have the adoption declared void, so she can retain full custody of her child.
Historically, statutes allowing adoption seek to place adopted children in a premier childrearing environment consisting of a mother and a father who are married, although most states allow single persons to adopt, as does North Carolina. North Carolina statutes establish the circumstances under which adoption may take place: (1) agency placement of a relinquished child (“agency adoption”); (2) adoption by a step-parent who is legally married to the child’s biological parent (“step-parent adoption”); and (3) direct placement by the child’s parents or guardian into the adoptive parents’ family (“direct placement adoption”).
Unless it is a step-parent adoption, North Carolina statutes state that: “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. After the entry of a decree of adoption, the former parents are relieved of all legal duties and obligations due from them to the adoptee.” To accomplish the adoption, the biological parents must sign a consent form stating that they are severing their parental rights as part of the adoption proceeding. These requirements are intended to protect the child from having two competing, and sometimes hostile, families. They protect the child from the unwanted interference of the former parent who placed the child for adoption.
In the case of Boseman’s purported adoption, however, the parties and the District Court colluded to get around the substitution of families and severance of parental rights requirements by having Jarrell, the child’s biological mother, execute a waiver of these requirements and sign a consent to adoption that specifically reserved her rights and duties over her child. The District Court granted a Decree of Adoption that allowed contradictory results: (1) Jarrell was allowed to maintain the parent and child relationship between herself and the child being adopted without relieving her of any legal duties and obligations nor divesting her of any rights with respect to the child; (2) The complete legal substitution of families maintained the relationship with the biological mother, Jarrell, in addition to establishing a parent and child relationship between Boseman and the child. This maneuver has been termed “second-parent adoption” which is commonly defined as: “An adoption by an unmarried cohabiting partner of a child’s legal parent, … especially an adoption in which a lesbian, gay man, or unmarried heterosexual person adopts his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child.” Although second-parent adoptions are not allowed under the North Carolina adoption statutes, they are the vehicle that gay couples have used to get around adoption laws across the country.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported last fall that, “Hundreds of gay couples in North Carolina have turned to judges in Orange and Durham counties to give them what most courts won’t: the legal right to be a parent to their partner’s child.” No wonder that Boseman attempted her second-parent adoption in Durham, rather than Wilmington where she lives. Same-sex couples from all over the state apparently are flocking to these two counties to accomplish what the statutes do not expressly allow.
Explaining the reason for CAL’s interest in the case, the Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League, said, “We felt this case was so important that the Supreme Court should know that the case’s result will impact families and children across the State, constituencies that all of our non-profit organizations serve. Second-parent adoptions, besides being contrary to law, are bad for children.” Rev. Creech continued, “We advised the Court in our brief that the evidence shows that same-sex parenting has a deleterious effect on children. More importantly, childrearing studies have consistently shown that children are more likely to thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically in a home with married parents of differing sexes. That is why we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will void the adoption in this case and clarify once and for all that second-parent adoptions are not legal in North Carolina.”