By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — N.C. Supreme Court justices can uphold state adoption laws and the authority of the General Assembly to make those laws or shove them aside and pave the way for multiple parties — whether or not they are even related — to decide to adopt children together.
That’s the upshot of the case between State Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) and her former lesbian partner, Melissa Jarrell, who gave birth to a child via artificial insemination during the pair’s relationship. The Court heard arguments in the suit Wednesday, particularly how the Durham County judge overstepped his jurisdiction in 2005, when he granted Boseman’s request to adopt Jarrell’s son. The two have battled over custody of the boy, who is now nearly 8, since the two parted ways.
Attorney Leslie Fritscher told the state’s High Court North Carolina law allows for only certain types of adoption — agency adoption, step-parent adoption and direct placement adoption, wherein the child’s parents place him or her into the adoptive parents’ family and thereby sever all legal ties to the child. But she said in this case the district court, “created its own adoption procedure, cobbling together various statutes to make a new kind of adoption that’s not provided for in the adoption statutes.”
Jarrell and Boseman, residents of New Hanover County, sought the adoption in Durham County where judges are known to grant such “second parent” adoptions, allowing the biological parent to sign a waiver in attempt to sidestep the law’s requirements and set up an arrangement that preserves his or her rights to the child while also granting parental rights to another.
Jim Lea, who is representing Boseman in the case, said statutory deadlines to challenge the adoption had passed and that case law precedents gave Jarrell the right to waive the benefit of not having to provide for the child.
“The legislature gave statutory procedure; we have jurisdiction; and we have case law that allows us to deviate from that statutory procedure,” he said, though he couldn’t thoroughly defend the line of reasoning when asked by Justice Paul Newby why his interpretation of the law wouldn’t also leave the door open to adoptions involving three or more parents — for instance a biological mother who allows a couple to adopt her child but retains her parental rights as well.
“But we’re only talking about one waiver …” Lea retorted. “… No I don’t think we’ll go out and have two or three or four people come in and adopt a child.”
However, the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, pointed out that once the law is circumvented, there is no limit to how it can be misapplied.
“If we sidestep the law to accommodate adoptions that don’t dissolve old ties and establish new families, there’s nothing to prevent multi-parent families,” he said. “The point is that the purpose for adoption laid out by state law is to replicate the natural family.”
“What the lower courts allowed was obviously not what our legislators set forth in the adoption statutes. The statutes allow for a single person to adopt, but expressly state that ‘If the individual who files the petition is unmarried no other individual may join in the petition.'” Creech added.
Fritscher also pointed out that waiver or not, there is no way a petitioner can give the adoption court a power that belongs only to the Legislature. She said the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction in that it issued a ruling that failed to follow the legal mandate of the adoption statute — that of severing the ties of the biological parent.
Boseman’s attorney’s also included in their arguments a child’s rights to finality in an adoption procedure and added that Jarrell had been complicit with the adoption at the time it was established. Deborah Dewart, a Swansboro attorney who addressed the constitutional issues in the Christian Action League’s amicus brief, however, said the rights of the child to finality are important, but this one case ought not to be allowed to trump what’s in the best interest of a lot of children in the long run. She said the fact that Jarrell was complicit in the purported adoption is irrelevant to the legal issue because the adoption itself contradicts state adoption statutes. “It would be like two criminals conspiring to commit a crime and then trying to go to court to enforce their contract with one another,” she said.
Tami Fitzgerald, who coauthored the amicus brief, echoed Dewart’s remarks saying that the real issue wasn’t finality or even an emotional argument that a child was involved. “But the real issue in this case,” said Fitzgerald, “is the court had no statutory authority to grant the adoption. So that should make the judgment void ab initio, (from the beginning).”
Fritscher told justices the district court’s decision to grant the adoption violated the separation of powers that leaves law making in North Carolina up to the General Assembly and not the courts.
It may be several months before the state Supreme Court rules on the case. The Court of Appeals had upheld a ruling by the District Court in New Hanover County allowing the adoption to stand.
“The decision in this case will significantly impact families and children across our State. Second-parent adoptions, besides being contrary to law, are bad for children,” said Rev. Creech. “We advised the Court in our brief that the evidence shows same-sex parenting has a deleterious effect on children. More importantly, child-rearing studies consistently show that children are more likely to thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically in a home with married parents of differing sexes.”
Rev. Creech added that this case was typical of how proponents and supporters of ‘gay rights’ manipulate the courts to bring about the desired result, which is a society that affirms homosexuality as normal and seeks to redefine family life. “Aside from the legalities in this matter,” said Creech, “these are reasons why we are hopeful 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.”