The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to void state Sen. Julia Boseman’s second-parent adoption on Monday.
Boseman was defending the adoption after her former partner Melissa Jarrell challenged it following their separation. Jarrell gave birth to her son in 2002, and she and Boseman sought the second-parent adoption in a Durham County district court. The judge in that case allowed Boseman to adopt the child and waived a legal requirement that would have made Jarrell relinquish her parental rights.
Anti-gay groups in North Carolina have used the high profile case — made so by Boseman’s position as a state senator — to advocate against adoption by same-sex couples. Several groups filed briefs opposing Boseman’s adoption with the state court.
Though the justices did not void a separate court ruling ensuring joint custody of the couple’s child, the ruling nonetheless shutters a process some same-sex couples across the state have used to guarantee parental rights and protections for their children and families. Most of these cases have been decided in Durham and Orange Counties. State law neither forbids nor allows the second-parent adoptions, an argument Associate Justice Robin Hudson used in her minority opinion.
In an earlier opinion issued while on the Court of Appeals, Hudson argued the law in question called for making decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
“The majority overlooks the interests of this child and promotes [Jarrell’s] rights over those of the child, in direct contravention of the law as written,” Hudson wrote, according to the Wilmington Star News.
The supreme court’s majority said legal questions regarding second-parent adoptions would be best handled by the legislature. Upon their return in January, both the North Carolina Senate and House will be controlled by Republicans. Several GOP leaders have pledged in the past to seek bans on adoption by gay individuals and couples. Current state law allows for adoption by gay individuals.
Boseman was the state’s first and only openly gay or lesbian member of the state legislature. Her term ends this month and she did not seek reelection. Marcus Brandon, a Guilford County Democrat, will enter the House in January. He’ll be the state’s first openly gay, African-American legislator.