It’s seemingly part of a growing trend: LGBT rights are expanding in states and jurisdictions where we would have never expected it two years ago.
In conservative Idaho—which has a Republican governor, two Republican U.S. senators and the third-most Mormons of any state—the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that lesbian and gay couples can adopt children.
On Monday, the Gem State’s high court handed down its undivided opinion, saying that same-sex couples have the same right to adopt kids as anyone else under the law. The court’s decision will allow Darcy Drake Simpson to adopt the two sons that she and her partner, Rene Simpson, have raised for the past 15 years. A lesbian couple from Boise, the Simpsons have been together since 1995 and got legally married in California last year.
Last summer, after filing a petition to adopt the two boys, Darcy Drake Simpson saw her request denied by a lower court’s magistrate, who did not follow the law. Instead, the magistrate said that she and her partner needed to be in a legally recognized union before she could adopt. The Simpsons did get married, but it didn’t change their status back in Boise. Idaho does not recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Fortunately, the state’s Supreme Court saw the Simpson case quite differently. The court ruled that the lower court magistrate had misapprehended the law. Idaho’s law on adoption is clear: Any person may adopt a minor child, regardless of sexual orientation.
As Justice Jim Jones stated in the court’s opinion: “In sum, the magistrate’s interpretation of Idaho law is simply not supported by the plain text of the statute.” He also noted that the wording of the statute is “unambiguous” and allows for “any adult person residing in and having residence in Idaho to adopt any minor child, and…contains no provisions that limit adoption to those who are married.”
Adoption cases are not public matters in Idaho and court documents are sealed. But the Simpsons publicized their plight in December, hoping to raise awareness about the legal difficulties faced by same-sex couples.
Recently, Idaho has become a surprising battleground state on the issue of LGBT rights. Four couples are suing the state’s governor in federal court in an effort to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. Last year, the Idaho Tax Commission prohibited legally married same-sex couples from filing joint state income tax returns. And just last week, more than 40 people were arrested during a two-hour protest at the Idaho Senate chambers aimed at pushing lawmakers to take up an LGBT anti-discrimination bill.