EXCLUSIVE: North Carolina couple finally gets to be full, legal family

North Carolina couple Tina Weaver and Briana Plautz-Weaver have been together for 9 years. They wanted to get married in North Carolina, but it wasn't legal, so they got married in New York last April, but were worried because Weaver could not legally adopt their two-year-old son, Kellyn Plautz-Weaver. On October 10th, the judge in North Carolina agreed that the ruling in favor of marrige equality in the 4th circuit appealed to North Carolina. Same-sex couples immediately got issued marriage licenses and started getting married on October 13th. Weaver could finally be a legal adoptive parent. GLAAD asked them how this life-changing event felt.

Q: How long have the two of you been together?

Briana: We started dating in October of 2005.

Q: Who proposed to who or did you have a formal proposal?

(Both laugh)
Briana: Tina did propose to me in the fall of 2008. We went on a hot air balloon ride the morning of, and we had lunch at the Omni Grove Park Inn and then the site where we actually had our commitment ceremony in North Carolina is where she proposed to me that day. It was a beautiful day. It was probably one of the best days ever.

Q: When did you decide that, if it were to become legal, you would want to get married?

Tina: I think what really resonated with us was the birth of our son. Our son just turned two this past October and, before his birth, we did our will but none of that was binding. And in the state of North Carolina, two years ago, even if you have a will, it was not binding that he would be mine if anything were to happen to Briana. So we took the initial step by having our commitment ceremony in April 2009. We went up to the state of New York in April of 2014 and made our marriage federally legal and that kind of gave us a little more clout.  At that time in April, 2014, we were saying, ‘Oh, North Carolina is so far away. They’re not even close to making something like this happen.’ And then like a month ago, all this stuff just started drumming up. It was like North Carolina, South Carolina, all these states are on the verge and we’re like, ‘Wow. This is a movement that we didn’t think we would see in our time of living in this state.’ And then, when it happened, it was kind of just like a revelation. 

Briana: Then our first thought was now, Tina can legally adopt Kellyn, and those are the next steps we want to move forward with, which we’re so excited about.

Q: Ok so let’s talk about October 10th. On October 10th, the judge in North Carolina agrees that the ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in the 4th circuit appeals to North Carolina. Same-sex couples immediately get issued marriage licenses. Where were both of you when you heard the news?

Briana: We were actually in Wisconsin, where I’m originally from, because, for our son’s second birthday, we decided we were going to celebrate with my family in Wisconsin. He turned two-years-old that Saturday. So we had flown out that Thursday to Wisconsin. We found out via friends texting and Facebook. 

Q: Were you able to go back to North Carolina on October 13th when same-sex couples started getting married?

Briana: It was very highly publicized around here. And I think one of the things that’s really resonating with us is, when this became legal and everything in Asheville just started happening, they put our LGBT flag on City Hall, right outside, this massive flag, just hanging from there, it was just an amazing moment of like, ‘Ok well this is the same level of inclusivity that we wanted all of our lives in North Carolina.’ So with friends, we could all speak to the level and magnitude and just understanding we’re inclusive, we’re inclusive. But, the repercussion of putting that flag up there was so hateful. It was so liberatingly great for us, but at the same time, the backlash of it was just very hateful and very unfortunate on such a special day.

Q: Where were you noticing negative reactions? Through emails? On the street?

Briana: People on the streets and also the communication that went to City Hall, the threats that went to our City Hall saying, you know, ‘you don’t even hang the North Carolina flag on there and the confederate flag, how is this inclusivity when you’re showing more favoritism to a certain group when everybody is a North Carolinian.’ It really demeaned the day, and it put a damper on it. But, again, for those in the LGBT community, the liberation and inclusivity of that moment was something you won’t forget.

Q: Now that same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina, you’re legally allowed to adopt your son. How does that make you feel and what are the next steps?

Briana: I don’t know if there’s words that can really express how excited we are to be able to do this. Since it happened, we haven’t been able to get all the right steps as far as what we need to do, but I can’t really describe it in words because, for one, it was one of those things where we didn’t know when or if it was really going to happen.  But now that it’s happened, it’s almost unbelievable.

Tina: And speaking to that, Bri is his blood mother, so for me, having the opportunity to adopt him, in my own emotional expression, it’s an unbelievable thing that, again, we did this in New York, we’ve created this will, but now I know he is mine and it was always going to be that level of, he may not be my blood, but he is my soul. So, it’s a very important level of rights that I want to obtain, and I want him to know and feel comfortable in any environment that he’s in knowing that he has me as his mother in every which way possible.

Q: What is it like to be two moms in North Carolina?

Tina: It depends on where in North Carolina you are. If you step right outside of the city limits of Asheville, it’s a different story. Asheville is very supportive of the LGBT community, but if you step outside the city limits, it’s a different scenario, different impression you get. So it can be a very difficult pressure of living outside the city limits. At the same time, we’re two extremely hard-working women, so for us right now, being two moms, we do everything under the sun just to make sure that we can provide for him just like any other family. But, the recognition of it isn’t quite there yet because we have to go through all the legal steps, but once it is, I mean that’s, that just keeps us in the same realm as the rest of this world.

Q: Can you walk down the street in downtown Asheville holding hands?

Briana: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Downtown Asheville, yes definitely, you can feel comfortable with it, and with Tina and I, for as long as we’ve been together, we’re also very comfortable with who we are, so, to be honest with you, even if somebody was staring at us, I don’t know if I would notice it. And that’s because, we’re just us. We’re a family. We don’t look at ourselves any differently, so if somebody were to be staring, I don’t know because I don’t pay attention to that. That’s not important to me.

Q: What are the responses that you’re getting now that your family and your friends know that you can legally adopt?

Tina: It’s been alarmingly positive. Like, astronomically positive to the point where, I didn’t think we’d get the responses that we got. I knew family and close friends, but there’s been people that I probably haven’t even talked to in several plus years, and just hearing their feedback, whether seeing it on social media or even just passing them on the street or something like that, to know our family and how at one we are as one unit, when people see that, and having a legal document that says I am his legal guardian, people are alarmingly supportive and it’s so comforting and so great and reassuring to have.

Q: When you finally have legally adopted your son, do you think you will feel different?

Tina: I honestly don’t think I will feel different. He’s our son. She’s my wife. We are a family. We’re just like any other family around. I think the one emotional item that may be different is just the level of comfort, again, just speaking to it, if anything was to happen to Bri, he’s in my hands and he’s where his family needs to be. So a little more level of comfort and security in that capacity.

Briana: I would have to agree with that.

Tina: Yeah because when we filled out our will, two years ago, it was like, ‘ok, if anything was to happen to Bri, this is only going to hold up so much in court. You know? It’s not like it’s going to just make sure that Kellyn stays with you, Tina.

Briana: And when you find that out, it’s disheartening because it ‘s like, what do you mean? We’re here signing paperwork. If anything were to happen to me, Tina should have Kellyn. So it was just not reassuring that it might not hold up. But now, if anything were to happen, Tina would get all rights to Kellyn.

Q: Any last thoughts?

Briana: We’re super excited about this! Honestly, we never thought it would happen, so we’re shocked that this has happened as quickly as it has. It’s just one of those states, North Carolina, where you just didn’t think you were going to see it happen.

Tina: Yeah because I mean we’ve been living here in the state of North Carolina for about four years now and we’re like, ok, we’re happy in Asheville, so where else could we go where we could get the same rights as the neighbor next door? So, we’d look at those other states, and then within that time, we’re like, did this really just happen? Now we have those same rights. Now we can move forward. It gives you more of an incentive, more of a want to actually stay in the state a bit longer.