Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 28° Clear

Eye On Boise

New federal lawsuit charges Idaho’s paternity laws discriminate against same-sex parents, kids

Idaho’s laws on paternity, artificial insemination and vital statistics unconstitutionally violate the rights of same-sex couples and their children, a new lawsuit filed today in federal district court charges. You can read the complaint here.

That’s because an opposite-sex couple that has a child by artificial insemination can simply sign a form to establish legal paternity. But a same-sex couple isn’t allowed to do the same; to obtain any legal relationship to the child, the same-sex partner must go through adoption procedures.

The case was filed on behalf of a 37-year-old Nampa woman and her four-year-old daughter, who is the biological daughter of her former same-sex partner. The two had been together since 2007, but at the time their daughter was born in 2012, Idaho didn’t allow same-sex marriage. Now, the estranged spouse, who has helped raise and support the child all her life, was present at her birth and helped pick her name, has no legal relationship to her.

“All we ask for is to be treated like an opposite-sex couple, whether they’re married or not,” said Howard Belodoff, associated director of Idaho Legal Aid Services, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Adela Ayala and her daughter. “In the eyes of Idaho law, the non-biological same-sex partner really doesn’t have any rights.”

For Ayala, that means no legal requirement for child support or rights to custody, inheritance, medical records, school records, medical decision-making, inclusion of her daughter on her health insurance, Social Security and more.

But for an opposite-sex couple who has a child by artificial insemination, all that’s required under Idaho law is that they fill out and sign forms, and then both parents automatically are listed on the birth certificate and the father is considered the legal father.

“That artificial insemination statute is a piece of work – it’s from 20 or more years ago,” Belodoff said.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho in 2014, as the result of a federal court ruling.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boise. The listed defendants are state Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong and Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of the department’s Division of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records, both in their official capacities.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: