Fisher-Borne v. Smith - Client Profiles

June 12, 2012

> Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne
> Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith
> Shana Carignan and Megan Parker
> Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck
> Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa
> Shawn Long and Craig Johnson

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne

Marcie and Chantelle are both University of North Carolina Chapel Hill alums and have been together for 15 years. They met in college in Louisiana, and spent their summers in the North Carolina mountains. They always knew they wanted to make North Carolina their home, and have lived in the Triangle area for 13 years. Chantelle, 37, grew up in Louisiana and Marcie, 37, grew up in Mississippi. Marcie works as the Director of Evidence Based Practice for the American Cancer Society and Chantelle is a non-profit consultant working on issues of community development and homelessness.

Each is the biological mother of one of their children: Marcie carried their daughter Miley, who is now 4 years old, and Chantelle carried their son Elijah, who is now 7 months old. When Miley was born in 2008, everything went smoothly until Marcie was sent to recovery. The first thing a nurse said to Marcie was a gruff demand for Chantelle's legal paperwork. Fortunately Marcie and Chantelle had brought copies of everything to the hospital, but they wonder what might have happened if they hadn't had it all with them. "We carry copies of everything everywhere we go," said Marcie, "We never know when some emergency might mean we end up face to face with someone who doesn't look at us as a family."

Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith

Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith

Both lifelong North Carolinians, Leigh grew up in Greensboro, and Crystal grew up in western North Carolina, a couple of hours away from their current home in Asheville. Crystal, 40, is an elementary school librarian and Leigh, 38, is a kindergarten teacher who has been a stay-at-home mom for the past couple of years. Together seven years, Crystal and Leigh live in Asheville with their children, 2-year-old Quinn and baby Joe, who were carried by Crystal.

The family often visits Leigh's parents, who live on a farm about an hour north of Greensboro and are doting grandparents. Unfortunately, Crystal's parents have never accepted her relationship with Leigh. Their rejection has been a source of hurt and anxiety for Crystal and Leigh. "I love my parents very much, but with second parent adoption banned in North Carolina, I really worry about what might happen to the children if anything were ever to happen to me," says Crystal.

Shana Carignan and Megan Parker

Shana Carignan and Megan Parker

Shana and Megan are lifelong North Carolinians who met four years ago through mutual friends. Shana, 29, works at an HIV services nonprofit and Megan, 32, works as a home care provider for a woman with severe physical and developmental disabilities. In 2010, Megan adopted Jax, who was living in a group foster home in another state with 15 other children. Born to a mother with alcohol and substance use issues, Jax has cerebral palsy and suffered from reduced oxygen to the brain at birth. While Jax was set back further by a lack of early intervention treatments, Shana and Megan acted quickly to get him the services and treatments he so badly needed as soon as they brought him home. Now 4 years old, Jax is doing very well in pre-school and is learning to communicate using a computer.

In the summer of 2010, Jax had to have surgery. The fact that Shana doesn't have a legal relationship to Jax made his hospital stay much harder on the family than it had to be. They had planned to take turns spending the night at the hospital with Jax, but the hospital didn't allow Shana to stay past visiting hours without Megan also being there. With no breaks for a good night's sleep, Megan stayed at Jax's side around the clock for an exhausting five days in a row. "Megan didn't sign up to be a single mother," said Shana. "All I want is to be able to fully take on my responsibility as Jax's mom too."

Update: In April 2014 the ACLU also filed a request for a preliminary injunction on behalf of Shana and Megan. Because North Carolina refuses to recognize the legal marriage of Megan and Shana and because North Carolina law refuses to allow both of Jax's parents to have a legal parent-son relationship, Jax is not receiving the quality of care he could which would dramatically improve his life. Because North Carolina recognizes only Megan as Jax's mother, Shana is unable to put Jax on her health insurance.

Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck

Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck

Terri, a staff recruiter at Duke University, and Leslie, director of operations at a benefits and investment consulting firm, have been together for 15 years and are proud moms to two brothers, 9 and 10 years old. The boys came to them from the state foster care system three years ago, where they'd been taken after spending their first several years in an abusive, neglectful home. Terri, 49, and Leslie, 50, went through hours upon hours of classes, training, background checks, and home visits to qualify as foster parents, and the boys flourished upon finally being in a loving home – but only Leslie was able to be named on their adoption papers.

Because of their sons' background, Terri and Leslie are fiercely protective of their privacy – and also very concerned about what might happen to the boys should anything ever happen to Leslie. "It's terrifying to think about," says Terri. "We don't want them to ever worry that they might be taken from their home. They deserve complete stability and safety." After all the uncertainty and cruelty that marked their early lives, these two brothers deserve to feel completely secure in the loving home Terri and Leslie have worked so hard to provide.

Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa

Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa

Lee Knight, a 36-year-old lawyer, was working part-time at an outdoor gear store while studying for the bar exam in 2005. Dana, 41 -- who served in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, later served in the Naval Reserve and the Army National Guard, and now works for the Veterans Administration -- had recently moved to Charlotte and got a part-time job at the same store in the hopes of making new friends who were also into outdoor activities. They met shortly after that and have been together ever since.

Lee Knight carried 3-year-old Miller and 1-year-old Margot. The only child of divorced parents, Lee Knight hasn't seen her father for nearly 20 years. While Lee Knight's mother is a supportive and devoted grandmother, Lee Knight and Dana worry about the children's future if something were to happen to both Lee Knight and her mother. "Dana does so much for our children, for everyone in our lives, and for our country," said Lee Knight. "It's so sad that our kids aren't able to have a legal relationship with their own mom."

Shawn Long and Craig Johnson

Shawn Long and Craig Johnson

Together 18 years, Shawn is an administrative coordinator at a nonprofit organization and Craig is a clinical program assistant at a pharmaceutical company. Lifelong North Carolinians, Shawn, 42, is from Bushy Fork, north of Durham, and Craig, 45, grew up just outside of Raleigh. Five years ago, Craig adopted Isaiah, who had been in and out of the foster care system before being permanently taken from his biological family. Together Shawn and Craig went through all the classes, training, background checks, and home visits necessary to qualify as foster parents, but because of North Carolina's second parent adoption ban, only Craig is a legal parent to Isaiah.

Isaiah is now a thriving, active 10-year-old who loves video games and sports of all kinds, but especially soccer. Shawn jokes that Craig had to persuade him to become a dad but now, he says, "I don't know why I hesitated for even a moment. I can't imagine life without Isaiah – he's everything to us."

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