Attorneys and advocates across North Carolina have been sharing their reactions to the Supreme Court’s historic decisions June 26 striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and effectively allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Chris Brook, legal director of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the impact of the ruling in North Carolina would be limited. But he also said the language of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case would provide support for the plaintiffs in an ongoing North Carolina case challenging state law that requires people to be married in order to jointly adopt a child. Since North Carolina prohibits same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are unable to adopt children together, even if one of the partners is the child’s biological parent.
“On the broadest level, it is of exceptional symbolic importance that the Supreme Court has ruled that failing to recognize gay and lesbian marriages from those states that allow it is in and of itself demeaning to commitments such as the one made between Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer,” Brook said. (Windsor was the DOMA plaintiff, and Spyer was her now-deceased wife.)
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition and chairwoman of Vote 4 Marriage NC, published a reaction to the rulings online.
“We are thankful that North Carolina’s marriage amendment is not immediately impacted by the ruling. Citizens in the 50 states are still free to debate, discuss, and defend marriage … However, the Supreme Court got it wrong. On the federal DOMA case, the Supreme Court got federalism wrong. Congress should have the authority to define marriage for federal programs just as states do,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Nicole Sodoma is a family law attorney in Charlotte who represents many non-traditional families looking to become parents through the use of surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology. Sodoma said the decisions would bring awareness to the need for the law to catch up with modern families and could potentially have indirect effects in North Carolina.
“I think if I was working with a client who was trying to decide whether to create family where they should create a family, I think they are going to have to consider things they have not considered before. If they can afford to move to a state where a same-sex family is legally recognized for purposes of benefits I think it’s going to give them more opportunities to move to those states so they could receive those benefits,” Sodoma said.