The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed a lawsuit earlier this month on behalf of three lesbian couples to overturn the constitutional ban of same-sex marriages in North Carolina, called Amendment One. The ACLU also demands that the state recognize same-sex unions from other states and remove the law that only permits one partner of an unmarried couple to legally adopt a child.
“(The lawsuit) seeks a swift legal resolution to the question of whether our state’s same-sex couples facing immediate health concerns may avoid daily harm by finally having their relationships recognized,” said Jen Jones , spokeswoman for Equality North Carolina, which filed an amicus brief with the ACLU.
The ACLU had already filed a legal challenge to Amendment One, but this lawsuit is different as it asks for quick action on the grounds that its plaintiffs cannot wait an extended period due to health concerns.
“For many couples — especially those who have children or one partner who is elderly or ill — the need for marriage recognition is an urgent, daily reality,” said Jennifer Rudinger , executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU, in a statement. “Without the legal security that only marriage affords, these families are left vulnerable. If they could marry or have their marriages recognized in North Carolina, the law would protect their families in countless ways.”
The courts in North Carolina have been slow to make a ruling. UNC law professor Maxine Eichner said the courts are probably waiting until a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is made on Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The Fourth Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
“The Fourth Circuit of Appeal is going to make a decision around late summer or early fall in regard to Virginia’s marriage ban,” Eichner said. “This decision would quite likely apply to North Carolina’s marriage ban and amendment.”
But because the ACLU asked for swift action on the case, a decision could be reached in North Carolina before the circuit comes to a conclusion, Eichner said.
If the ACLU wins the suit, it would open up the door for marriage equality, Jones said.
“With it comes a chance to begin healing the hurt endured by so many of North Carolina’s gay and lesbian families who were so recently stung by this constitutional ban on same-sex relationship recognitions,” she said.