By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A civil liberties group filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging North Carolina's prohibition against same-sex couples adopting each other's children.
The ban on so-called second parent adoptions violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian parents and their children, according to the complaint filed in Greensboro by the American Civil Liberties Union.
North Carolina is one of eight U.S. states where same-sex couples are barred from adopting children together and/or are not allowed to have one partner adopt the other's biological or adoptive children, according to the ACLU.
A December 2010 decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court held that state statutes allowed married couples, stepparents and individuals to adopt, but blocked gay or straight unmarried couples from doing so, said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU in North Carolina.
The state does not recognize same-sex marriages, and voters in May approved an amendment to add that ban to the state constitution.
Brook said the suit filed on Wednesday was not a reaction to the recent vote, but an effort to expand legal protections for gay and lesbian households.
"Adoption decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis based on what is in best interest of the child," he said during a conference call with reporters. "Children denied a legally recognized parent are oftentimes left vulnerable."
The ACLU said second parent adoptions helped ensure that either partner could make medical decisions for the children they help parent and retain custody should something happen to the other parent.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children, including Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne of Durham, who each carried one of their two young children.
Because the women are not the legal parents of each other's biological child, they carry around their power of attorney paperwork in order to prove their relationships with the children should the need arise, Marcie Fisher-Borne said.
"They have never known any other family but ours," she said. "Chantelle is no less a parent to our daughter, and I'm no less a parent to our son."
(Editing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Mohammad Zargham)