Same-Sex Couples With Children: Your New Rights

Oct 14, 2014

Marcie (left) and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, adoption day. Monday 10/14/14
Credit Reema Khrais

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne have been together for 18 years. They have two kids, 6-year-old Miley and 2-year-old Elijah. Marcie Fisher-Borne gave birth to Miley and Chantelle Fisher-Borne gave birth to Eli. So each parent has been considered a 'legal stranger' to one of their kids.

They were at the Durham County Courthouse Monday because same-sex marriage is now legal in North Carolina. And that means they can adopt as a family.

We can go to sleep knowing that if one of us is not here tomorrow, our kids can stay in their family unit and not be taken away.

"It means, if our kid is in the hospital, no one is going to question why we're there," says Marcie Fisher-Borne.  "When Miley was born, there were questions [about] why Chantelle was there," she says adding that they will now be able to do simple things, like sign school forms.
 
"We can go to sleep knowing that if one of us is not here tomorrow, our kids can stay in their family unit and not be taken away."
 
The Fisher-Bornes are the leading plaintiffs on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. They and other couples have been calling for the right to have second-parent adoption.
 
There still isn't a ruling in the suit, but they no longer have to wait for one. They held hands as they walked into the courtroom. Their lawyer handed over the paperwork to the Clerk of Superior Court. In return, he gave the kids big kisses and hugs.

Legal Parent, Step-Parent Adoption
 
Because all of the adoption forms use gendered language, gay couples have to apply for a step-parent adoption.
 
The Department of Health and Human Services says it's still figuring out how the ruling on gay marriage will impact adoptions, though the couple's lawyer say she's confident that they will become legal parents. That reality still makes Marcie Fisher-Borne a little teary-eyed.
 
"We love them fiercely like any parent would love their parent fiercely. And so today, I'm very happy that people can get married and I'm very happy for us that our children's whole family, in the eye of the law, will be a whole family."
 
Advocates say they're working with same-sex couples who have children to educate them on their new rights.