The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has cleared the first hurdles of an extensive process to mount a constitutional attack on North Carolina’s Amendment One, the state’s ban on gay marriage.
As the ACLU embarks on a $10-million campaign to achieve same-sex marriage nationwide, the organization announced last week it would amend an existing federal lawsuit in N.C. addressing second-parent adoption rights for gay couples.
The revised legal challenge, if approved, could result in the striking down of Amendment One — a ballot initiative that N.C. voters passed by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent last year.
“We’re challenging North Carolina’s ban across the board,” said Chris Brook, the ACLU’s state legal director.
Three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, attorneys representing gay couples, like Brook and his partner, have scrambled to decipher potential legal implications of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion.
Gene Nichol, a UNC law professor, said in an email the court’s ruling has left voter-approved gay marriage bans, like North Carolina’s, on shaky ground.
“The DOMA case held that restrictions on the intimate and private decisions of lesbians and gay men — including marriage — can’t be based on the mere desire of the majority to express disapproval or disdain,” he said.
Holning Lau, president of the ACLU of North Carolina and a UNC law professor, said Kennedy’s emphasis on the potential harms and “humiliation” caused to children by discrimination against their gay parents will bolster the ACLU’s argument.
“What we’ve seen in other states is, when they’ve tried to go to court to defend a same-sex marriage ban, they often argue that legalizing same-sex marriage is bad for children,” Lau said.