LGBT rights in Idaho

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LGBT rights in Idaho
Map of USA ID.svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Legal since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
Gender identity/expression State alters sex on birth certificates for transgender people
Discrimination protections Gender identity under Schwenk v. Hartford; None statewide for sexual orientation
Family rights
Recognition of
Marriage since 2014
Adoption Yes

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the U.S state of Idaho may face some legal challenges not faced by non-LGBT people. Same-sex activity is legal in Idaho, and same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since October 2014. A ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has made gender identity-based discrimination illegal in the state under federal law, though discrimination based on sexual orientation isn't banned in the state. A majority of Idahoans support same-sex marriage.[1]

Laws regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas rendered laws banning consensual sexual activity unenforceable, including Idaho's.[2]

As of 2017, the state's sodomy law, though unenforceable, had not been repealed by Idaho legislators.[3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Idaho voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2006 stating that "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."[4] Similar restrictions had been incorporated in the state's statutes in the 1990s.[5] A ruling in the case of Latta v. Otter on May 13, 2014, found these prohibitions unconstitutional. Enforcement of the ruling in that case had been stayed while the case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[6]

On October 7, 2014, the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court ruling that found the state's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional.[7] State officials failed to receive a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court while they pursued further appeals, and Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced the state would no longer attempt to preserve its denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples.[8] On October 15, 2014, approximately 100 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses at the Ada County clerk's offices.[9]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Idaho permits adoption by "any adult person". There are no explicit prohibitions on adoption by same-sex couples or on second-parent adoptions. On February 11, 2014, the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously overturned a lower court ruling and held that an adoptive parent need not be married. It returned to the lower court the adoption petition of an Idaho woman who married another woman in California and sought to adopt her wife's 2 teenage sons.[10]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of Idaho counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

No provision of Idaho law explicitly addresses discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity,[11] a continuing omission which prompted the Add the Words, Idaho campaign of civil disobedience in 2014.[12]

The following Idaho cities have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: Boise,[13] Bellevue,[14] Coeur d'Alene,[13] Driggs,[15] Hailey,[16] Idaho Falls,[17] Ketchum,[13] Lewiston,[18][19] Meridian,[20] Moscow,[13] Pocatello,[21] Sandpoint[13] and Victor.[22]

The city of Twin Falls[18] has an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation only.

On November 8, 1994, the voters of Idaho, by a 50.38% to 49.62% vote, rejected Initiative 1, an initiative that would have forbid state and local governments from granting minority status and rights based on homosexual behavior.[23]

On February 10, 2012, the Senate State Affairs Committee, by a 7-2 vote, killed a bill that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in jobs, housing, educational opportunities and public accommodations.[24] In April 2014, a series of protests collectively known as Add the Words began which resulted in numerous arrests.[25]

On May 20, 2014, the voters of Pocatello, Idaho, by a 50.41% to 49.59% vote, rejected Proposition 1, an initiative that would have repealed the city's ordinance that prohibits discrimination with regard to housing, employment and public accommodations based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity and gender expression.[26]

On January 15, 2015, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 6-1 to hold a hearing on a bill that would have added language banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's Human Rights Act. It had been denied a hearing in each of the preceding nine years.[27] On January 29, the House State Affairs Committee voted 13-4 against the bill.[28]

Schwenk v. Hartford[edit]

On February 29, 2000, citing Title VII case law, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Guam, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington, ruled in favor of a transgender woman's claim of sex discrimination under the Gender Motivated Violence Act based on the perception that she was a man who failed to act like one. The Court noted that "the initial approach" taken in earlier federal appellate Title VII cases, which had dismissed gender identity discrimination, "has been overruled by the language and logic of Price Waterhouse."[29][30] This made gender identity discrimination illegal in Idaho, despite it not being explicitly banned under state law.

Hate crime laws[edit]

Boise Pride 2011 at the Idaho State Capitol.

Idaho's hate crimes law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[31]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

By 2018, Idaho was one of the only four U.S. states (Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee being the other three) which didn't allow transgender people to alter their gender marker on their birth certificates. However, in March 2018, a federal judge ruled this unconstitutional. From April 6 onwards, transgender people in Idaho have been allowed to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity. The ruling was labelled "a huge win" by transgender activists, who in 2017 had filed a lawsuit challenging the state law. While arguing that transgender people "already face disproportionately high levels of discrimination", the judge asserted that such discrepancies "can create risks to the health and safety of transgender people" and that said discrepancies were "archaic, unjust and discriminatory".[32]


  1. ^ PRRI: American Values Atlas 2016
  2. ^ New York Times: "Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Law Banning Sodomy," June 26, 2003, access April 14, 2011
  4. ^ CNN: 2006 Key Ballot Measures, accessed April 14, 2011; Idaho State Legislature: Article III, Section 28, accessed January 6, 2007
  5. ^ Human Resources Campaign: Idaho Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine., accessed April 14, 2011
  6. ^ Geidner, Chris (May 15, 2014). "No Friday Same-Sex Marriages In Idaho". BuzzFeed. Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ BREAKING: Ninth Circuit strikes down Idaho, Nevada same-sex marriage bans
  8. ^ Sewell, Cynthia (October 10, 2014). "Otter says state should comply with gay-marriage order when it comes again". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kreusi, Kimberlee; Ridler, Keith (October 15, 2014). "Gay marriage arrives in conservative stronghold Idaho". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ Zuckerman, Laura (February 11, 2014). "Idaho's top court grants adoptive rights to spouse in gay marriage". Reuters. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ Human Resources Campaign: Idaho Non-Discrimination Law Archived 2012-04-30 at the Wayback Machine., accessed April 14, 2011
  12. ^ Add the Words
  13. ^ a b c d e "Cities and Counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that Include Gender Identity". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ Evans, Tony (June 17, 2015). "Bellevue passes LGBT ordinance". The Idaho Mountain Express. 
  15. ^ Driggs passes non-discrimination ordinance
  16. ^ Brown, Nathan (May 26, 2015). "First Twin Falls Gay Couple to Get Marriage License Celebrates their Commitment". Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  17. ^ Russell, Betsy (September 13, 2013). "Idaho Falls bans housing, employment discrimination against gays". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved September 18, 2013. Idaho Falls has become the seventh city in Idaho to enact a local ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  18. ^ a b Baeza, Benito (January 16, 2013). "Lewiston Adds Sexual Orientation to City Policy". KLIX. Associated Press. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Lewiston, Idaho Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance". Towleroad. October 28, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Municipal Equality Index" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 21, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Pocatello Adopts Anti-discrimination Rule, Becoming 6th Idaho City to Protect GLBT People". Times-News. Associated Press. June 7, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  22. ^ Rural Border Town Becomes Idaho's 8th City To Approve Non-Discrimination Ordinance
  24. ^ "Idaho GOP refuses to 'add the words' to prohibit LGBT discrimination". LGBTQ Nation. February 12, 2012. 
  25. ^ Dozens more arrested in ‘Add the Words’ protest at Boise Capitol
  27. ^ Kruesi, Kimberlee (January 15, 2015). "In reversal, Idaho lawmakers introduce sex orientation and gender identity protection bill". Daily Journal (Idaho). Associated Press. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  28. ^ "'Add the Words' bill dies in committee". KTVB. January 29, 2015. 
  30. ^ EEOC's Inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Under Title VII's Prohibition of Sex Discrimination and Possible Implications for Private Employers
  31. ^ Human Resources Campaign: Idaho Hate Crimes Law Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine., accessed April 14, 2011
  32. ^ Idaho Transgender Community Celebrates Victory In Birth Certificate Ruling