What North Carolina's Refusal to Recognize the Marriages of Same Sex Couples Really Means

 

Think of what it would mean for someone who has been with their partner for decades to confront losing a spouse, while the state insists they're not really married. That's exactly what many same-sex couples face in North Carolina.

Today, we filed a new lawsuit seeking relief for three North Carolina families in desperate situations.

Our clients -- three lesbian couples in long-term, loving, and committed relationships -- include a decorated war veteran and others who honorably serve and contribute to their communities in numerous ways. Yet North Carolina law treats them as second-class citizens, denying them respect of their marriages.

Our new plaintiffs are Ellen ("Lennie") Gerber and Pearl Berlin, Lyn McCoy and Jane Blackburn, and Esmerelda Mejia and Christina Ginter-Mejia.

Because of their age and medical conditions, all three have a substantial fear that one of them could pass away before their marriage is recognized by North Carolina, depriving them forever of the dignity and social recognition that state-recognition would bring.

Lennie and Pearl have been together for 47 years and were married in Maine. Pearl is 89 years old and was hospitalized twice last year.

Lyn and Jane have been a couple for 22 years and were married in the District of Columbia in 2011. Jane has Stage IV breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments.

Esmeralda and Christina have been together 19 years and were recently married in Maryland. Esme is a decorated retired Army major. She left the Army after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Four years later, she received a second cancer diagnosis for a tumor in her left lung. She has undergone many procedures, including surgery to remove the upper lobe of her lung and three ribs and a liver transplant. When Esme has been hospitalized, Christina has been unable to take family leave to care for her because the state does not recognize their relationship. And as a veteran, Esme's legally recognized children would be entitled to significant benefits. Because the state will not allow Esme to adopt the child she and her spouse have been raising for the past seven years, he is not considered her legal child and is thus ineligible for these protections.

These three families live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear about their ability to exercise their proper role as each other's spouse and medical proxy or to be allowed to stay with their spouse during medical procedures and emergencies. If any were to die, their relationships with their spouses (and, for one family, their child) would never be legally recognized in North Carolina.

Having lived in a loving and committed relationship for decades, our clients should not have to face the end of life (and, for the surviving spouse, the thought of losing their life partner) with the knowledge that their community refuses to recognize the worth and solemnity of their relationship in ways it does for others. They deserve all the support they can get, not the indignity and grief of knowing their home state treats them as legal strangers.

Because of the urgency of their specific situations, we filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the state to respect their marriages. At the same time, we are also seeking urgent relief on behalf of one of the families in our earlier lawsuit on behalf of six couples raising children in North Carolina.

In our earlier case filed in 2012, plaintiffs Shana Carignan and Megan Parker, along with their son Jax have been waiting for a decision about whether the state can continue to disregard their marriage. Jax, who was four at the time the lawsuit was filed, faces serious developmental delays due to cerebral palsy. Because North Carolina does not respect their marriage or allow two unmarried adults to adopt a child, Shana is unable to adopt her son and cannot cover him on her health insurance. Jax desperately needs medical treatments that the couple cannot afford to pay for on their own but would be covered by insurance if Shana could adopt Jax. As each day passes, his parents fear that Jax is missing critical opportunities for intervention that would have a profound impact on his development.

Since the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could no longer refuse to recognize marriages of same-sex couples in United States v. Windsor, nine federal courts across the country have concluded that excluding same-sex couples from marriage, or refusing to recognize their valid marriages, is unfair and unjustifiable. We and our clients are hopeful that the district court in North Carolina will soon join this chorus of decisions striking down such bans as unconstitutional.

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Anonymous

gag. vomit. These nasty perverts want us to have to except their perverted lifestyles. This is sick. Fags and dykes dont deserve squat.

Now lets see if the America "Criminal" Liberties Union has the guts to print this. They hate free speech if it is not radical, left-wing garbage.

Anonymous

You make it sound like North Carolina's ban on homosexual marriage was something bad, something harmful. Homosexuality is a sin whether you want to recognize as so or not and sin has no benefits. If you want to know whether homosexual marriage is ok or not, put the issue up against the Word of God and see what it says about it. Could you actually expect Jesus to vote for it??

Anonymous

Well I hate to tell you that it makes no sense to say they've been "married" for decades, but legal marriage of two women or two men didn't even become legal until the late 80's, early 90's. I lived in California. It was legal to get married THERE no matter who the couple was.
I'm bad at Math but I'm not so abysmal at it that I don't know that late-80s to the current time is less than 30 years.

Right wing and ...

Why do so many people want their "free speech" to be printed as if they think what they say makes ANY gd sense and doesn't just make them look stupid.
They can actually return and read Comment #1 AND think they sound like the "good person" they're always thinking they are?
Really? What's so good about you? More important, what in that COMMENT makes you look so damn intelligent?

Allen Alsbrooks...

I see Satan's little minions are at it again. The hate you spew..in the name of your "G-d" won't get you far. It's sad you don't have the balls topmost your vile comments using your real names. Why are you scared?

I'm joining the ACLU to help promote marriage equality for all American families.

Anonymous

1. Nobody forced these women to enter into a relationship with each other. They knew full well that their relationship would never be recognized as a "marriage", yet they chose to hook up with each other anyway. So whatever "stigma" they receive, they brought upon themselves.

2. Nobody forced them to come back from Maine. If they loved the South so much, they could have gone as far as Maryland and keep state recognition of their "marriage". The fact that they came back to NC shows that they really didn't want marriage recognition after all.

3. Even assuming same-sex "marriage" were some sort of constitutional right (and it certainly is not), this couple, having been together 47 years, had plenty of time to sue for it. To go whining before a judge that they should get a preliminary injunction because their time left on this earth is short smacks of underhanded legal tactics and "dirty hands".

4. Even if they win, forced state recognition will not yield social recognition in a state where the very denial of state recognition came from the people. If you want social recognition, go live in one of the pervert states where people celebrate perversion. Stay out of decent places like NC.

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