Last week, Mecklenburg County Commissioners went into closed session to discuss allegations made by an Asheville couple in a Nov. 26 Creative Loafing article that county youth and family services staff thwarted their efforts to adopt infant twins in order to allow a gay couple to adopt them. The gay couple said the straight couple had shown no real interest in the twins until they found out the adopting couple was two gay men.
The CL article raised questions about where final authority lies in North Carolina regarding who can adopt or foster children. Because state law is silent on the specifics of gay adoption, the question left county attorneys stumped. Commissioners voted 6-3 in closed session to send a letter asking for clarification to the state attorney general and to the state department of Health and Human Services. In particular, commissioners want to know if county agencies can bar adoption by single parents with live-in partners or openly gay individuals. Since gay couples can't marry in North Carolina, and unmarried couples can't adopt jointly, such a policy would effectively ban gay adoption.
The issue has the potential to affect how every adoption agency in the state addresses gay adoption, since an opinion issued to Mecklenburg would apply statewide. It also has the potential to lead to a legislative battle to clarify state law. The current holes in state law leave social service administrators across the state wide latitude to discriminate against gay individuals or to promote adoption by them.
"Both sides in this debate deserve an honest, direct, forthright answer," says County Commissioner Bill James, who initially raised the issue and who, as might be expected, is against gay couples adopting children. "There are too many politicians and bureaucrats who are scared of their own shadow and don't want a direct answer on this."