GREENSBORO, N.C. — The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has filed a second gay marriage lawsuit in federal court today. The group is seeking immediate relief on behalf of three married same-sex couples, each of whom has a spouse in serious medical condition.
Additionally, the ACLU is also asking for immediate relief in an existing pending lawsuit, Fisher-Borne et al. v. Smith, a 2012 second-parent adoption case which had been amended last year to include a challenge to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. One of the couples in that case has a young child the ACLU says “is being denied critical medical care because North Carolina neither recognizes his mothers’ marriage nor allows both mothers to adopt their child and establish a legal relationship.”
The announcement came today at a press conference at the International Civil Rights Museum in downtown Greensboro.
The couples in the new case filed today include an elderly High Point, N.C., couple, Ellen “Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin, together for 47 years and married last year in Maine. At 89 years old, Berlin has been hospitalized three times over the past two years.
A second couple includes a spouse diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, which has since advanced to a Stage IV diagnosis.
The third couple includes a decorated retired Army veteran also diagnosed with cancer. She and her spouse have a son, but the veteran has not been able to adopt him because of North Carolina’s marriage and adoption bans. If she dies without legal recognition of her marriage in North Carolina, her son will be ineligible for benefits from his mother’s military service.
The federal judge overseeing the ACLU’s first North Carolina suit has yet to schedule oral arguments. Observers say the judge is likely awaiting a pending ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Fourth Circuit, which is scheduled to soon hear a gay marriage case in Virginia. That ruling could — though its not certain — apply to North Carolina.
The ACLU says each day North Carolina couples wait is another day of denied rights and continued suffering for the couples.
Mike Meno, the ACLU of North Carolina’s communications director, said he is hopeful same-sex couples in North Carolina will soon have their relationships recognized.
“Ever since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States V. Windsor, we’ve seen a wave of district court rulings across the country in places like Oklahoma and Utah and as close as Virginia where courts are now more and more joining this growing chorus that says bans on marriage are discriminatory and unconstitutional,” Meno told qnotes.
He added, “When you listen to the stories of our clients, it’s made clear that North Carolina’s ban and those of other states create a daily, constant harm for many families. We’re looking forward to the day when all committed, loving couples in North Carolina can have their marriages recognized here.”