FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 3, 2004
(San Francisco, CA, May 3, 2004) — The Idaho Supreme Court held oral argument today in McGriff v. McGriff, a case in which the father, Theron McGriff, lost joint legal and physical custody of his two children because of his sexual orientation. This case is one of the first state supreme court custody decisions involving a lesbian or gay parent following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down Texas' sodomy statute. Mr. McGriff is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Idaho attorney Richard A. Hearn of Racine, Olson, Nye, Budge & Bailey.
Prior to the divorce, Theron was the primary caretaker of the two children. After the divorce, which was initiated by Theron's ex-wife, the parties agreed to share custody of the children. This arrangement continued until Theron became involved with a male partner, at which point his former wife petitioned for and received sole custody based solely on her argument that the children would be harmed by living with a gay father. To add insult to injury, the trial court also held that Theron can only have visitation with his children if he does not live with his partner.
"We are very optimistic that the court will make the right decision for our family," Mr. McGriff said today after the oral argument.
"I am encouraged by the court's thorough questioning," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "Idaho courts have a long history of holding that custody decisions cannot be premised on bias. I am confident they will apply that rule in this case as well."
Mr. McGriff was recently awarded the Kessler Keener Extraordinary Witness Award from the Idaho Human Rights Commission, which is a faith-based award to recognize community and humanitarian service. Mr. McGriff was chosen because of his numerous community service projects, including organizing an annual AIDS awareness benefit.
NCLR is co-counsel in the case with Idaho attorney Richard A. Hearn of Racine, Olson, Nye, Budge & Bailey, who argued the case before the Idaho Supreme Court. A decision is expected within the next six months.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.