In Many States, Gay Dads Are "Legal Strangers"
In the struggle for equal treatment, we have celebrated great victories, especially in the past few years.
We are now able to marry in 17 U.S. states: all six New England states, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (takes effect June 1), Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
In June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling it unconstitutional to restrict the federal interpretation of marriage to apply only to heterosexual unions.
Attorney General Eric Holder declared in February that state attorneys general are not obliged to defend laws in their state that ban same-sex marriage if they believe it to be unconstitutional.
Despite all this progress, there are many states where gay families have little protection. Nine states have constitutional amendments that prohibit gay marriage. Even worse, in the 20 states with anti-relationship recognition constitutional amendments, gay families have no protection whatsoever.
An op-ed article in the “News & Observer” a few days ago makes clear, in painful detail, in what way and to what extent these anti-gay parenting laws and constitutional amendments affect one family’s daily life.
Craig and Shawn, a couple for 20 years, live in Wake Forest, NC with their 12-year-old son whom they adopted from foster care. Yet in North Carolina there are no second parent adoptions. Their son can only have one legally recognized parent, in this case Craig. Shawn, in all other respects a parent, remains a “legal stranger”. For simple things such as doctor’s visits, pickup from school or camp, Shawn may be asked to show a copy of his power of attorney. If something happens to Craig, Shawn has no legal relationship to his son; he would have to go to court to request to be granted custody. Eventually he may be allowed to adopt him; if not, their son would be returned to the foster care system.
In June 2012, on behalf of Craig and Shawn as well as five other same-sex couples, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed a federal lawsuit for the right to obtain second parent adoptions. They are still waiting for a decision.