By Tami Fitzgerald
Christian Action League
The fate of whether gay couples are allowed to adopt children in North Carolina is in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court, which has decided to review a lower court decision that sanctions adoption by same-sex couples. Even though it was not required to review the unanimous decision of the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in the case of Boseman v. Jarrell, the Court granted a Petition for Discretionary Review filed by the biological mother of the minor child, Melissa Jarrell. The child’s biological mother asked the Court to declare void the adoption of her biological child by her former lesbian partner, State Senator Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover), and to grant her sole custody of the child.
At the same time, the Court granted a motion filed by the Christian Action League (CAL), The American College of Pediatricians, the N.C. Family Policy Council, NC4Marriage, and the Christian Family Law Association for Leave to File an Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) Brief. Asked to comment on the case by the Associated Press, Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said: “Rogue judges” who approved such adoptions have created chaos within the state’s legal system.” He said judges were “legislating gay adoption from the bench” while taking the emphasis away from marriage. “The ruling opens up an opportunity for gay activists to challenge our marriage statutes because our law doesn’t allow these gay couples, who can now adopt children, to marry,” Creech said.
As previously reported, the case involved a bitter custody dispute between Senator Julia Boseman and Melissa Jarrell, over a child born to Melissa Jarrell by artificial insemination during the relationship. Durham District Court Judge Marcia Morey allowed Senator Boseman to adopt the child, even though the adoption statutes do not allow same-sex (third party) adoptions. The judge sidestepped the adoption statutes in order to get around the requirement that the couple be married, which they cannot do legally in North Carolina (a step-parent adoption). Instead, the judge granted a “direct placement” adoption, which should have mandated the severance of parental rights and responsibilities of the birth parent, Melissa Jarrell, according to the statute. However, the Judge allowed Melissa Jarrell to waive the severance of her parental rights, issuing an adoption decree that “does not sever the relationship of parent and child between the individual adopted and that individual’s biological mother.”
When the couple’s lesbian relationship ended less than nine months after the adoption, Boseman filed a suit seeking joint custody of Melissa Jarrell’s son, using the adoption decree as the basis. The District Court in Wilmington stated that it did not have jurisdiction to overturn the adoption ruling and granted joint custody to Senator Boseman. The Court of Appeals noted that the adoption did not comply with the statute, but it did not overturn the ruling, stating: “After careful review, we conclude that the adoption decree, even if erroneous or contrary to law, was not void.” Providing two “parents” for the child was more important than following the plain language of the statute.
Melissa Jarrell has argued in court documents that the adoption was void from the beginning, because it did not follow mandatory statutory requirements. Her attorney, John Martin, said: “If we’re to have same-sex adoptions in this type of case, it is an issue for our elected officials to take up. It is not up to the courts to take the legislation and craft an adoption procedure that is not specifically allowed by statute.” He will have 30 days to file a brief on behalf of Ms. Jarrell. CAL and the other pro-family groups will file their Amicus Curiae brief in that period. Then, attorneys for Senator Boseman will have 30 days to file a reply brief.