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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 24, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 52
NC Supremes strike down same-sex adoption
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NC Supremes strike down same-sex adoption

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on December 20 that a Lesbian couple may not share parental rights to the biological son of one of the partners, but said the non-biological mother is entitled to joint custody of him.

The court ruled 5-2 that Julia Boseman's adoption of Jacob, the son of her former partner Melissa Jarrell, was invalid because the district court judge who approved the adoption waived the requirement that Jarrell give up parental rights.

Boseman therefore lost legal parental rights to Jacob after the couple's breakup.

Under North Carolina state law, a married spouse may adopt the biological child of his or her new spouse, with both spouses enjoying parental rights to the child, but an unmarried person - even a domestic partner - may acquire parental rights only if the biological parent surrenders them.



Under the adoption plan approved by the district court, Boseman became an adoptive parent while Jarrell retained full parental rights as well.

LGBT rights advocates saw this as a possible way to accommodate same-sex couples' desire to adopt the biological children of one of the partners.

Boseman, North Carolina's first openly Lesbian member of the General Assembly, had been living with Jarrell when Jarrell gave birth to Jacob in 2002. Boseman adopted the boy, becoming his legal mother.

The couple subsequently separated, and in the settlement, the women were given joint custody of Jacob.

Jarrell then sued to terminate Boseman's relationship with the boy.

Associate Justice Paul Newby wrote for the majority that the adoption never occurred in the eyes of the law because North Carolina's legislature made clear that the biological parent must terminate a legal relationship with the child when a non-biological parent adopts him or her.

'If our uniform court system is to be preserved, a new form of adoption cannot be made available in some counties but not all,' Newby wrote.

That part of the ruling favored Jarrell.

The court let stand another lower court ruling allowing the two to have joint custody of the child, however.

Newby said it would be in Jacob's best interest for both women, who have been sharing parental responsibilities, to rear him.

Associate Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson wrote in a dissenting opinion that Jarrell was barred from challenging the adoption decree because she missed deadlines to do so.

In a separate opinion, Associate Justice Robin Hudson said there was no explicit prohibition against a waiver like the one Jarrell received, or permission for one.

'The majority overlooks the interests of this child and promotes [Jarrell's] rights over those of the child, in direct contravention of the law as written,' Hudson wrote.

A number of Christian groups filed amicus briefs arguing that the adoption was illegal, while several law professors and the ACLU urged the court to uphold Boseman's adoption to ensure the child and others in similar situations would be in stable family environments.

According to the HRC, at least 27 states permit second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples, either through state law or based on evidence presented in local courts.

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