In a unanimous opinion that sets a precedent for gay and other non-traditional couples, the Idaho Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for Darcy Drake Simpson to adopt two boys who until now have had just one legal parent, Simpson's same-sex partner Rene Simpson.
The Boise couple, together since 1995, were married last year in California. Their adoption petition for the boys, ages 12 and 15, will be returned to Ada County Magistrate Cathleen MacGregor Irby, who took just 14 days last summer to deny the adoption.
Rene Simpson gave birth to her first son in 1998 and adopted a second boy as an infant in 2001.
MacGregor Irby had ruled that the couple must be in a legally recognized union. But the court found that the language of the law - that 'any person' may adopt a minor child - plainly allows adoptions by same-sex couples.
Wrote Justice Jim Jones for the court:
"In sum, 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 person 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."
Adoption cases are under seal, but Darcy Drake Simpson and Rene Simpson came forth in December hoping to raise awareness about the problems faced by families headed by same-sex couples.
One of the Boise couple's lawyers, Bill Mauk, said the case would set a precedent for adoption not just by gay couples, but also for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others.
MacGregor Irby, who had issued at least one similar denial to a same-sex couple, wrote on Sept. 13: "(T)his court concludes that the legislature's intent in relation to adoptions is 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."