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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. 

GREENSBORO – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation have asked a federal judge to quickly overturn North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in light of a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that found Virginia’s similar marriage ban unconstitutional.

In documents filed late yesterday with a federal judge in Greensboro, the ACLU explains that the Fourth Circuit’s decision striking down Virginia’s marriage ban created a legal precedent that must be followed by courts in North Carolina, one of five states in the Fourth Circuit. On July 30, Judge William Osteen Jr. asked the parties in two ACLU cases challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban to explain the significance of the Fourth Circuit ruling to North Carolina’s law.

“The ruling from the Fourth Circuit makes plain that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is discriminatory and unconstitutional,” said ACLU-NC Legal Director Chris Brook. “By denying gay and lesbian couples the dignity and legal security that comes with marriage, North Carolina’s law has harmed countless families and made it harder for people to take care of those they love. We are asking the court to provide relief for these families and strike down North Carolina’s discriminatory and unconstitutional ban without delay.”

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RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today declared that Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. This marks the second time that an appellate-level court has ruled on state marriage bans following the dismantling of a key section of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).

The Fourth Circuit includes Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland, the only state in the circuit that allows same-sex couples to marry. The precedent from today's ruling applies to all of these states.

“Today’s ruling sets a clear precedent for courts in North Carolina and is the most significant step to date toward securing the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in our state,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “Though there is still much work that needs to be done, this ruling has given an enormous boost to our efforts to ensure that all loving and committed couples are able to have the security and dignity that comes only with marriage.”

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Twenty-Four Years of Love

Posted on in LGBT Rights
By Tamara Sheffield & Maryja Mee

We're like a lot of couples out there. We met in college. We've stuck by each other's side through the ups and downs. And we're involved in our local North Carolina community.

The only difference is we can't get married where we live.

That's why we entered the ACLU's "My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding" contest.

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RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over North Carolina and four other states, will hear oral arguments Tuesday, May 13, in a case challenging Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The case will be argued in Richmond, Virginia, by James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project, among others. On February 14, 2014, a federal judge ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional, but the ruling has been suspended while it is being appealed. A Fourth Circuit ruling on that case, Bostic v. Rainey, could have an impact on North Carolina’s similar marriage ban.   

In North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation have filed two federal lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, both in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. The first, Fisher-Borne et al. v. Smith, was filed in July 2013 as an amended complaint to a 2012 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions on behalf of six families across the state headed by same-sex couples. On April 9, 2014, the ACLU filed a second federal lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin et al. v. Cooper, on behalf of three married, same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages. Because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple, they are asking the court to take swift action.

The ACLU has filed an amicus curiae, or “friend-of-the-court” brief, in the Bostic case before the Fourth Circuit on behalf of its North Carolina clients who are raising children. The brief highlights particular harms that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples has on families and children, including denial of medical decision-making in an emergency, Social Security Insurance survivor benefits, the ability to provide children with quality health insurance of the non-legal parents, detrimental tax status, and denial of veteran’s benefits, among others.

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SALISBURY, N.C. – A same-sex couple from Salisbury, North Carolina, who recently won a nationwide contest sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union to receive the wedding of their dreams will depart from Salisbury tomorrow morning for their wedding ceremony in New York City on Sunday, April 27.  

Tamara Sheffield and Maryja Mee, college sweethearts who have been together for 24 years and co-founded the Salisbury Pride parade in 2011, are one of five couples living in states where marriage for same-sex couples is not yet legal who are receiving $5,000 toward the wedding of their dreams as part of the ACLU’s “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding" Contest.

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