Thursday, June 11, 2009

Idaho On the National Stage

It seems the story I commented on Tuesday has gone national. The refusal by the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation to offer a family admission price to Amber Koger, her partner Jeri Underwood, and Amber's three nieces and nephews, has been picked up by some in the national media world.

The Hollywood blogger, Perez Hilton, titled his post "Dear Idaho" and flat out said in response to the story KTVB ran yesterday: "This sucks." The KTVB story was simply a regurgitated version of the story in the Idaho State Journal Tuesday. The Advocate ran the Lava story as well, both sites/stories picking up numerous comments from readers.

Today the Idaho State Journal has the "Family Pass Policy" for the swimming complex as part of a story on the now national news story. Tuesday, Mark Lowe, executive director of the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation, stated that the family policy was not a written policy. Apparently, the foundation does have a written policy, I'm assuming they have written this policy and added it to their website (where, I don't know, because I can't locate it on the actual website) after refusing the Koger/Underwood family a family pass. The policy states the following:
Intent: The family discount is intended to help families afford the day out at a swimming pool or hot pool facility that they may not otherwise be able to afford. It is also intended to increase attendance at the facilities midweek when business is typically slower. Therefore, the discount is available Monday-Thursday except major holidays--New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Eligibility: In order to be as consistent as possible, families that are eligible for the discount are considered to be parents and children. The children must be dependent children of the parent, or parents, present at the time of entry, and under the age of 18. For the purpose of this discount, parent is defined as the person who has long-term legal responsibility for the dependent children.

Discussion: The children need not be biological offspring of the legally responsible adult(s). Adopted children and foster children are considered part of the family so long as the stipulations listed above are met. Parents are defined as those adults who are either legally obligated to the care of the dependent children or are married to the adult who is the parent of the dependent children. Single parents and their children are eligible for the discount. Adults who are raising their siblings are eligible for the discount.

As the paper points out, the "family discount policy...does not designate what sex the parents must be to qualify for the family rate." However, my guess is that Lava is contending same-sex couples and their children are not eligible for the family rate because they are not married and cannot be in the state of Idaho.

This is ridiculous on many levels, the least of which is the fact that two parents who have lived together and raised their children for years are allowed the family pass as long as they an opposite-sex couple. That couple is not deemed ineligible because they are without a marriage certificate--they're not even asked if they are married when they show up to the complex. This argument could be continued by theorizing that even some same-sex couples might be married, complete with a marriage certificate, but their marriage is not recognized in Idaho. That is beyond the scope of the argument, really. It mostly comes down to the fact that this family arrived at the swimming complex and was denied the family rate because the two parents were both female. How might the complex have handled a family that arrived with two women in the parenting role who were sisters? Surely there are families that split parenting duties between one sister, perhaps a widow, and another who has stepped in to share the parenting burden. The Koger/Underwood family was denied the rate not because of some written policy, Mr. Lowe stated there was not a written policy as of Tuesday, but because they appeared as and are a same-sex couple raising a family.

This story is yet another example of unabashed bigotry in Idaho. As Geoff says, "this, is life in Idaho." And as Sisyphus asked somewhere yesterday, tell me, how is this not segregation?


igub said...

If you read the policy it does not say that parents must be married to each other. In my case, my partner and I are both listed on the birth certificate and in all court papers as the parents. Since we are both the legal parents, we should qualify under the published policy. I don't see where the policy establishes that the parents must be married.

Tara A. Rowe said...

I never said that the policy stated they had to married, only that Lava is more than likely using the marriage roadblock as a way of refusing the family rate. I have a hard time believing that in Idaho a same-sex couple would be listed on a child's birth certificate.

igub said...

Tara -

Oh, sorry, I should have been more clear. I didn't mean you said they had to be married. I meant that I don't see in the policy (the one you have quoted in your blog - which is the one I found on their website) where it says anything about having to be married. It only speaks to parentage.

With respect to a same sex couple being listed on the birth certificate, Idaho law is unclear. The law doesn't prohibit it, but it also doesn't say it's permissible. My children were born in California where it is legal. While same sex marriages do not have to be recognized from state to state, case law is quite clear that a parentage order issued by a Court (i.e., adoption decree) must be recognized by all other States regardless as to whether that State would allow the adoption. Marriages are not covered by the Full Faith and Credit Clause; however, court judgments are covered. Thus, my parentage rights and the parentage rights of my partner must be recognized in Idaho, regardless of whether Idaho would issue such a parentage judgment. As such we are the legal parents and the policy says that parents and their children may receive the family discount.

I emailed Lava today and asked them to clarify whether my family would qualify for the pass. Mark Lowe said that all couples are asked if they're married which contradicts your blog. Personally, I doubt the veracity of that claim. I think your blog is probably more accurate on this point. Just mentioning it since that's what he wrote me.

I think Lava's policy is absurd and discrimination at its worst. While gay marriage is not permissible in Idaho, two parents (regardless of their gender and marital status) and their children are a family by any reasonable definition.

In the situation that brought this policy into the news, I can't tell if both of the lesbians are the legal foster parents/guardians. If they are then I assert that they qualify for the discount simply from their status as the "parents". If they aren't both legally defined as the foster parents or guardians, then they may be running afoul of Lava's policy. But, my situation is certainly addressed by Lava and I believe we qualify for the discount.

Tara A. Rowe said...

That Mr. Lowe says they actually ask couples if they are married is absolutely absurd. Both that he claims they ask all couples this question (as a way of "clearing" themselves of discrimination) and then the notion that they actually would be so crass to ask the question! The whole thing makes my head spin. Thank you for clarifying your statements--I was assuming you weren't from Idaho because I can't imagine many in Idaho state and local governments allowing such a thing. Not that there aren't good people in state and local governments, but because these policies tend to start at their top and work their way down, rather than be what works best at the bottom becoming the policy at the top. If that makes any sense.

igub said...

Did you know this is not the first instance of this type of discrimination occurring in Idaho. After doing a little more digging, I found another similar case by a city agency. This incident occurred early this year. I'm fairly new to the whole internet thing but I'll try to paste a link for you. (If it doesn't work, it's a story about the city of Nampa and its Recreation Center.)

Thought you might find it interesting.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Yes, I was aware of the Nampa case. Lots of the blogs picked up that story.