ACLU files lawsuit in North Carolina seeking immediate respect for marriages

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and private lawyers filed a new federal lawsuit seeking immediate respect for the marriages of three same-sex couples with life-threatening medical conditions. Because these couples' marriages are not respected in North Carolina, these couples are unable to access many protections and responsibilities provided by marriage. The lawsuit is Gerber and Berlin v. Cooper, and you can find out more about the case here. 

The couples include Ellen “Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin of High Point, who have been together for 47 years, Lyn McCoy and Jane Blackburn of Greensboro, together for 22 years, and Esmeralda Mejia and Christina Ginter-Mejia of Hickory, who share 19 years of commitment. 

In its other marriage lawsuit, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, filed in 2012 seeking the freedom for gay couples to adopt and expanded in 2013 to seek the freedom to marry, the ACLU also sought immediate relief on behalf of one couple whose child is being denied critical medical care because North Carolina denies her parents the full respect of marriage.

Jennifer Rudinger, who serves as executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, explained today:

Nothing should delay loving and committed couples from having the security and recognition that comes with marriage. For many couples – especially those who have children or one partner who is elderly or ill – the need for marriage recognition is an urgent, daily reality. Without the legal security that only marriage affords, these families are left vulnerable. If they could marry or have their marriages recognized in North Carolina, the law would protect their families in countless ways.

Mike Meno, Communications Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, told QNotes:

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. 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.

There are now more than 60 active lawsuits in 30 states or territories seeking the freedom to marry or the respect of existing, legal marriages between same-sex couples. Nine of these cases are before federal appellate courts, all headed into this next chapter with victories. One of these cases - or a case that's yet to be filed, will face consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. The national strategy has always been to win marriage nationwide in the Supreme Court, and the key to encouraging the Court to finish the job has always been to work the tracks of the Roadmap to Victory: growing public support, winning marriage in more states, and ending federal discrimination.

Freedom to Marry has been tracking litigation with our Marriage Litigation resource to provide a comprehensive overview at all of the marriage-related legal cases already underway. Special thanks toKathleen Perrin at Equality Case Files for always being thorough in posting essential documents from the courts.

Follow all of the Marriage Litigation here.