FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota couple is suing Catholic Charities for $6.5 million, alleging that the group didn’t allow them to adopt a girl because they were living together and hadn’t gotten married yet.
James and Tahnee Young, of Fargo, say they were matched up with a 15-year-old girl who was living in foster care five months before their July wedding date and had hoped to have the teen as a bridesmaid in the ceremony. They never met the girl but they had a 90-minute interview with the teen’s social worker, who allegedly told them she “would get things moving” in the hopes that the adoption could be completed before the wedding.
“Everything was fully disclosed up front and there was absolutely no concern whatsoever,” James said, referring to the fact they were not yet married.
The Youngs said they became suspicious when they failed to receive the necessary paperwork and were eventually told the adoption was off because they were living together as an unmarried couple.
“The social worker said we had to abide by the church’s teachings,” James said. “They said we were living in sin and it goes all the way back to the Pope.”
William Harrie, who is the attorney for Catholic Charities and three of its employees named in the lawsuit, did not respond to email and telephone messages for comment Thursday and Friday. His office said he was busy with a trial.
The Youngs are representing themselves in the case because they say they haven’t been able to find an attorney who doesn’t have a conflict of interest with Catholic Charities. They briefly retained a lawyer who sent a letter to the defendants last month asking for the adoption to go through now that the two are married.
“We never got any response from them so I was forced to file this lawsuit,” James said. “To date we have not got any phone calls, we have got nothing in the mail.”
The $6.5 million sought in the complaint includes $5 million in punitive damages. James, 48, would not say whether he would drop the lawsuit if he and Tahnee, 36, were allowed to adopt the child.
“We want the child,” James said. “But we don’t want this to ever happen to any other adoptive parent. This is hurting the child.”