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LGBT Rights

The ACLU's LGBT Project works for an America free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means an America where LGBT people can live openly, where identities, relationships and families are respected, and where there is fair treatment on the job, in schools, housing, public places, health care, and government programs. 

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a sweeping and historic decision that affords gay and lesbian couples the same legal right to marry and recognition of their marriages as different-sex couples. The ruling invalidates discriminatory laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and as a practical matter, requires all 50 states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

“The Supreme Court today welcomed same-sex couples fully into the American family. Gay and lesbian couples and our families may be at peace knowing that our simple request to be treated like everyone else – that is, to be able to participate in the dignity of marriage – has finally been granted,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. “Today’s historic victory comes on the backs of same-sex couples and advocates who have worked for decades to dismantle harmful stereotypes and unjust laws in the quest for equal treatment.”

The court’s 5-4 opinion holds that state marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Recognizing that “marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death,” the Court held that the Constitution grants to same-sex couples the right to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

"Today's decision has been 50 years in the making and will stand with Brown vs. Board of Education as one of the landmark civil rights moments of our time," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "Now we take the battle for full legal equality to the states, where 31 states have yet to pass any statewide LGBT non-discrimination laws.  The wind is at our backs, and we are now on the cusp of achieving full legal equality for LGBT Americans across the country."

The case is captioned Obergefell v. Hodges and is made up of cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  The American Civil Liberties Union represented plaintiffs in Kentucky casesBourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear and in Ohio case Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges with private firms.

North Carolina Background:

The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage ban in June 2013 when it amended a 2012 lawsuit seeking second parent adoption rights for six families headed by same-sex couples. The adoption lawsuit, Fisher-Borne, et al. v. Smith, was originally filed in June 2012, just weeks after passage of the state’s marriage ban, known as Amendment One, which the ACLU lobbied and campaigned against. In April 2014, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al. v. Smith, challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban on behalf of three married same-sex couples, one member of which has a serious medical condition. In October 2014, U.S. District Judge William Osteen issued a ruling in both cases that declared North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional.

RALEIGH – The North Carolina General Assembly has voted to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which would allow sworn government officials to deny marriage services to legally eligible couples if the officials cite a deeply held religious objection. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina released the following statement:

“This is a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly,” said Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “Just eight months after our state extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, extremist lawmakers have passed discrimination into law, allowing government officials to deny marriage services to virtually any couple. This shameful backlash against equality will make it harder for all couples in our state to marry and force many to spend what is supposed to be a happy day trapped in a maze of government offices. We encourage any North Carolina couples who encounter new hurdles because of this discriminatory law to contact our office.”

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina is applauding new guidelines issued by North Carolina officials that allow the same-sex spouse of a woman who gives birth to a child during the marriage to be listed as a parent on the child’s birth certificate. The ACLU worked with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in developing the new guidelines.

“These new guidelines are important because they reflect North Carolina’s recognition that lesbian spouses can both be legal parents to children born to the couple,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “Being able to have birth certificates that accurately reflect a child’s family will have important practical and psychological benefits for families. Married lesbian couples who have children will no longer face the challenge of trying to register their kids for school or get them a Social Security card without a birth certificate naming both parents, and their children will not have the insecurity of seeing only one of their two parents on their birth certificate.”

North Carolina Vital Records, which is responsible for the issuance of birth certificates and is housed within DHHS, allows a non-biological father to be listed on the birth certificate of a child born to his wife through donor sperm. Before the new guidelines were issued, married lesbian couples who had children the same way were told that the non-biological parent could not be listed on their child’s birth certificate upon the birth of the child. The ACLU worked with DHHS on the policy change after being contacted by many affected couples in the wake of North Carolina’s recognition of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in October 2014.  

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RALEIGH – A coalition of organizations that promote equal rights and offer support for transgender North Carolinians today released Reporting on Transgender Issues: A Reference Guide for North Carolina Media, a guide intended to provide North Carolina media outlets with proper terminology, North Carolina sources, and story ideas that can assist editors, producers, and reporters with their coverage of transgender individuals and issues.

The guide is being released the week before Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, an annual observance that honors the memory of people whose lives were lost in acts of transphobic or anti-transgender violence.

The guide provides contact information for eight organizations with knowledge of transgender issues in North Carolina, as well as background on issues affecting the transgender community, including challenges with ID cards, workplace discrimination, bullying and social stigma, prisoners’ rights and housing discrimination.

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GREENSBORO - U.S. District Judge William Osteen today ruled that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. He is the second federal judge to do so in five days. The ruling came in two lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued a separate ruling that struck down North Carolina’s marriage ban and added North Carolina to the list of states to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Judge Osteen, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, also gave North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger the ability to intervene in the case on appeal.

“Judge Osteen’s ruling is the second in five days to declare North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “This second ruling further emphasizes that North Carolina’s now-defunct marriage ban was discriminatory and denied same-sex couples their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law. The legislature can attempt to pursue an appeal if they so choose; however, that would only unnecessarily expend taxpayer resources. North Carolinians can rest assured: the freedom to marry is here to stay.”

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