Federal lawsuit says Idaho paternity laws discriminate against same-sex parents

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 Thursday in federal district court charges.

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 4-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, associate 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.”

Just treat everybody the same. That’s all we want.

Howard Belodoff, associate director of Idaho Legal Aid Services

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.

There are “contingencies” in the law that address a variety of family and parental situations, Belodoff said.

“We inquired at Health and Welfare whether a same-sex couple could submit an affidavit of paternity, and they said no, there’s no procedure for that,” Belodoff said.

But even if the department had found a workaround to allow the plaintiff to seek paternity, that would have helped only his client, he said.

“It doesn’t do good to have one person who hires an attorney get in there,” he said. The lawsuit seeks to ensure equality for all same-sex couples, he said.

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.

Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton contributed.