Same-Sex Couple, Children Denied Family Rate at Idaho Pool

A same-sex couple and their three foster children were denied a reduced admission price to a pool in eastern Idaho because the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation says the five don't fit the definition of a family.

Amber Koger and Jeri Underwood say they and their three children were recently denied the resort's advertised family admission price to the Olympic Swimming Complex at Lava Hot Springs.

"What made me mad is that their definition leaves out a lot of families," Koger told the Idaho State Journal. "What you're saying is that because we're gay, we're not a family."

Koger is the aunt of 11-year-old Makayla, 9-year-old Kolton and 5-year-old Ricky. Their parents divorced and Koger and Underwood were awarded custody after the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare became involved.

"We support them, we feed them, we love them, we put them to bed every night," Underwood said. "We are a family in every way."

Mark Lowe, executive director for the Lava Hot Springs foundation, said the state doesn't recognize gay or lesbian marriage and defines a family as one male, one female and children.

"We are a state agency bound by all the laws of the state of Idaho," Lowe said.

But Monica Hopkins of the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise said state code defines marriage but has no universal definition of a family.

"What Lowe is saying is that his agency will not recognize any other family structure," Hopkins said. "But the law doesn't define a family."

Koger and Underwood, of American Falls, have been together seven years. Underwood said she carries health insurance for Koger through her job and they both help support the children.

"I wanted to live with them for as long as I can remember," said Makayla.

At the pool, Koger ended up buying individual passes for her niece and Underwood.

Other venues in the area allow family rates for nontraditional families.

At the Pocatello Zoo, director Scott Ransom said a parent or legal guardian must be present to register children for zoo programs, but forms don't give a definition of a family.

At the Ross Park Aquatic Center, manager Cindy Robbins said families of all types get in for half price during Monday's "Family Night."

"If family members live under the same roof and parents can claim them on their taxes, they are a family," Robbins said.