By Kaylia Metcalfe
The Supreme Court of Idaho ruled last month in a case lauded as a sign of good things for future cases regarding same-sex couples and adoption—but before we celebrate too widely, let’s take a closer look at the ruling and what it really means for Idaho and the rest of the country.
The case centered on an adoption petition filed by Darcy Drake Simpson and Rene Simpson. Rene has one biological son and one adopted son. The couple has been together since 1995 and married in California last year. However, when they petitioned Idaho for Darcy to be able to adopt the boys, they were denied.
Ada County Magistrate Cathleen MacGregor Irby denied the adoption request last summer on the grounds that “the petitioner must be in a lawfully recognized union, i.e., married to the prospective adoptee’s parent, to have legal standing to file a petition to adopt that person’s biological or adopted child.”
The problem? That statement is totally inaccurate. In fact, Idaho’s adoption statutes unambiguously allow a second, prospective parent to adopt, regardless of marital status.
Idaho Code § 16-1501 provides that “[a]ny minor child may be adopted by any adult person residing in and having residence in Idaho, in the cases and subject to the rules prescribed in this chapter.”
The Idaho Supreme Court cited the adoption code in its unanimous ruling and went on to clarify: “‘Any adult person’ is not defined in title 16, nor should it be—it is difficult to imagine reasonable minds differing as to its meaning… ‘[A]ny adult person’ cannot possibly be construed to mean ‘any married adult person’ as the magistrate ultimately determined.”
Supporters of LGBT families were quick to celebrate with headlines along the lines of “Idaho Supreme Court Supports Same-Sex Parents!” and such things but, to be clear, this is not a case about LGBT rights specifically. Although the interpretation of the statue does, in fact, allow for same-sex couples to adopt, it also allows for single people to adopt, for grandparents, for friends, or for poly partners.
In short, the door for adoptions in Idaho is wide open and by its very nature inclusive of the LGBT community.
This is, thankfully, the trend in terms of adoption, but of course other states have vastly different adoption rules and regulations and there is still a lot of work to be done until LGBT families in every state have full equality.
Kaylia Metcalfe is a writer, blogger and activist in Fresno. She is a cofounder of Skeptics Without a Cause and serves on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors. Her short story collection “Links” is available at www.amazon.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.