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My partner and I, now 22, were adopted together when we were 12. The adoption agency believed we were very "sisterly" towards each other and encouraged our adoptive parents to accept both of us into their home. What they didn't know however was that we were intimate at the time. We've continued to be girlfriends in secret, but we hope to now marry and spend the rest of our lives together. Idaho law allows for same sex marriage, but we've been told that it is illegal for adopted siblings to marry, no matter blood relation (we are not blood related)

My question is, does this actually apply to us? And if so, is there anything we can do to annul our adoptive relationship, or perhaps there is a state that will allow it (as a last resort, uprooting now would be ruinous)

Thank you for your opinion, none of the answers will be construed as legal advice.

  • What is the statute that prohibits marriage of adopted siblings? – feetwet Jun 5 '17 at 13:05
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    @feetwet - we're not sure, the county clerk asked us why we had the same surname, and upon explaining ourselves said it wasn't possible, and warned us that we're committing a felony and to "reconsider our life choices". Searching online for information didn't yield any results, aside from wikipedia that indicated in Idaho it can be punished with life imprisonment, which only terrified us more – Jane Doe Jun 5 '17 at 13:16
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    If a government official says it's a felony ask them what law or statute makes it so. Does the wikipedia article not have any reference supporting its statement on the matter? – feetwet Jun 5 '17 at 13:24
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    This is an intriguing situation. I would believe incest laws only apply to blood relatives. I highly recommend just seeing a lawyer, even if we ended up telling you that you have the right to marry eachother. If a clerk is unwilling to register your marriage then you may need a lawyer to force their hand – Shazamo Morebucks Jun 5 '17 at 13:59
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    @ShazamoMorebucks - You're probably right, we'll ask the clerk to cite the statute they're following, read up on it, and once we save up enough to retain a lawyer, see what we can do to rectify it. thank you! – Jane Doe Jun 5 '17 at 14:06
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One place to look is the incest statute, 18-6602, which says:

Persons being within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous and void, who intermarry with each other, or who commit fornication or adultery with each other, are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a term not to exceed life.

The relevant statute pertaining to consanguinity and marriage (32.205) states:

Marriages between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, and between brothers and sisters of the half (1/2) as well as the whole blood, and between uncles and nieces, or aunts and nephews, are incestuous, and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate.

A literal reading of the law with attention to the bold part tells you that the prohibition of marriage between brothers and sisters of full or half blood does not preclude marriage between blood-unrelated sibling. It does, however, not grant the same right to aunts and nephews etc. (including those by adoption), which could engender competing claims about legislative intent. It would then be relevant to look at the Washington analog of this statute, RCW 26.04.020, which prohibits marriage:

(1)(b) When the spouses are nearer of kin to each other than second cousins, whether of the whole or half blood computing by the rules of the civil law.

(2) It is unlawful for any person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.

Here, the blood-relation rule applies to (second) cousins and is absolute for aunts and sibling. It would seem that various legislatures had different intents, in forming these statutes.

In Oregon, ORS 106.020 prohibits marriage

When the parties thereto are first cousins or any nearer of kin to each other, whether of the whole or half blood, whether by blood or adoption, computing by the rules of the civil law, except that when the parties are first cousins by adoption only, the marriage is not prohibited or void

In this case, the Oregon law explicitly equates blood and adoption, and then could cast doubt on the concept of "whole or half blood" as actually referring to blood relationship (although, Oregon is not Idaho, or Washington).

Given the literal reading of the Idaho statutes (and without there being any clarifying case pertaining to relationship by adoption), it may take a court order to compel the county clerk to obey the law, especially if the clerk is dispensing life choice recommendations. That is especially so if the law is not clearly established.

Montana likewise restricts (40-1-401)

a marriage between an ancestor and a descendant or between a brother and a sister, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood, or between first cousins

That statute also says

Parties to a marriage prohibited under this section who cohabit after removal of the impediment are lawfully married as of the date of the removal of the impediment.

However, there is no obvious way to get legally unadopted, especially when the parties are adults.

An additional wrinkle is that in Idaho under 32-209, valid marriages entered into elsewhere are valid in that state

unless they violate the public policy of this state. Marriages that violate the public policy of this state include, but are not limited to, same-sex marriages, and marriages entered into under the laws of another state or country with the intent to evade the prohibitions of the marriage laws of this state.

But it is established law that same-sex marriages are legal. The bold section is clearly unconstitutional; the question then is whether if you took this to SCOTUS, they would strike down the entire statute (a number of states still have such language on their statute books, e.g. Montana still declares that marriage is between a man and a woman). At any rate, a lawyer is probably mandatory.

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    Thank you for this information! We spoke to the county clerk again and they still refuse to budge, so we've retained an attorney and we'll pass this information on to them. They said it's going to be a tough, just because of the various types of taboo this type of thing tip-toes around, but if the judge is reasoned it shouldn't be a problem. Thank you again and wish me luck! – Jane Doe Jun 5 '17 at 22:39
  • @JaneDoe : County clerks are probably not infallible in such matters. Once upon a time I tried to register a used car in North Carolina that I had bought in Minnesota. I was told the mileage certificate I had been given in Minnesota was unacceptable because it was not verbatim identical to what federal law prescribed. Not the same as your situation, but it's a bureaucrat telling me what the law was. I had noticed in the building directory in the lobby that the DMV's lawyer's office was on the fourth floor. So I went there and asked a DMV lawyer about it. It turned out that...... – Michael Hardy Jun 6 '17 at 14:30
  • ..... the official North Carolina form was also not verbatim identical with what federal law prescribed, and that part of the federal law had been repealed. The lawyer phoned the person downstairs and I was then allowed to use the form I had been given, thereby avoiding an extra $50 fee. So your county clerk may be equally well informed about the law. – Michael Hardy Jun 6 '17 at 14:31
  • It seems some laws are not well thought through. If siblings (by adoption) are allowed to be married, but uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews (by adoption) are not, that's weird. And it seems that uncles and nephews or aunts and nieces are allowed to marry... These laws seem to be quite carelessly written. – gnasher729 Feb 2 at 0:23
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I'm not sure if you're already married now, since it's been a while. But have you considered emancipating yourselves and then marrying? Or if that doesn't work perhaps one of you could convince a friend to adopt you from your current family thereby correcting the name on the birth certificate (I know California alters the birth certificate of adoptees, I don't know if Idaho does)? Your upcoming marriage should free them of any financial responsibility so there's not much to lose.

If all else fails, Colorado is the state where you'll probably be able to get married since it does not specifically state that adoptive siblings cannot marry.

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