Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Regarding Marriage and Family in the State of Idaho


Question: What are the laws of the State of Idaho regarding the recognition of same sex relationships?


Prior to 2006, Idaho had two statutes, Idaho Code §§ 32-201 and 32-209 that limited marriage under Idaho law to a marriage between a man and a woman. Partly out of concern that a couple could bring a lawsuit alleging that said statutes violated the Idaho Constitution, in 2006, a constitutional amendment was adopted by Idaho voters providing that "a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Idaho Const. art. III § 28.

Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage is currently being challenged in U.S. District Court in the case of Latta v. Otter, which is still pending.

Question: What are the laws of the State of Idaho regarding same-sex couples adopting minor children?


Idaho Code § 16-1501 provides that "any 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 recent case of In the Matter of the Adoption of John Doe and John Doe I, ___ P.3d ___ (Idaho 2014) (Docket No. 41463) involved a same-sex couple who had been together since 1995 and had obtained a civil union in the State of Vermont in 2002, and had been married in the State of California in 2013. The couple filed a petition for the adoption of two children, one of which had been adopted by one of the women in 2002, and the other that was conceived by one of the women by artificial insemination. Both children had been raised by both women since their births, for fifteen and twelve years, respectively.

The Magistrate Court dismissed the women's petition for adoption, without hearing, holding that "the court does not find any provision that allows for the adoption of a person's adopted and/or biological children by that person's cohabiting, committed partner."

The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the Magistrate Court's decision, holding that "the magistrate's interpretation of Idaho law is simply not supported by the plain text of the statute. In light of the unambiguous language in I.C. § 16-1501 that allows for 'any adult personal residing in and having residence in Idaho' to adopt 'any minor child,' and because chapter 15 contains no provisions that limit adoption to those who are married, Idaho's adoption statutes plainly allow Jane Doe to adopt John Doe and John Doe I."

The Court recognized that said statute did not apply only to same-sex couples, but, as set forth in the statute, "to any adult person residing in and having residence in Idaho."

Question: What are the laws of the State of Idaho relative to LGBT rights to custody of minor children?


In the case of McGriff v. McGriff, 140 Idaho 643 (Idaho 2004), the Mother of two young daughters requested a modification to a prior custody order based, in part, upon her ex-husband's homosexual relationship. A parenting evaluator recommended that there not be any change to the custody arrangement, but that the parties "obtain the help of a professional 'who can assist them in presenting [the father's sexual orientation] collaboratively to their children." Id. at 644.

The Magistrate Court adopted the parenting evaluator's recommendation; however, after some time, ultimately determined that the Father had not complied with the counseling as recommended. A trial was then held on the matter of custody and the Magistrate Court entered an order granting primary legal and physical custody to the Mother, with visitation to the Father provided that he did not reside in the same house with his male partner. Id. at 645. The Father appealed the matter to the Idaho Supreme Court.

The Idaho Supreme Court determined that that "the majority of findings upon which the magistrate based his decision to modify custody [. . .] were unrelated to [the Father's] homosexuality," and that the Magistrate's decision to modify was based on factors unrelated to sexual orientation and that the restriction on the Father's partner was based on other factors wherein the partner was determined to have acted inappropriately toward the Mother. However, the Court stated that "sexual orientation, in and of itself, cannot be the basis for awarding or removing custody; only when the parent's sexual orientation is shown to cause harm to the child, such that the child's best interests are not served, should sexual orientation be a factor in determining custody." Id. at 648.