Lava Hot Springs is facing criticism for denying a lesbian couple and their foster children a family rate for entrance into a pool at the Idaho attraction located in the town that shares its name.
Earlier this month, Amber Koger and Jeri Underwood took their three foster children to the pool and hot spring resort. Here they said staff denied to sell them a $20 family pool pass because they didn’t fit the definition of a family. The couple has legal custody of the children, who are her nephews and niece.
“We’re a family. We live together. This is our family and she [one of the staff] said, ‘No it doesn’t work that way. A family is a mom, dad and children. I was like are you kidding me?” Koger told Local News 8, an Idaho news program.
Eventually, staff sold Koger a family pass for her and her nephews, but she had to pay a separate rate for her partner and niece. She said that the experience confused the children.
“The five-year-old asked, ‘Why did she say that, why aren’t we a family?’ And we had to explain to him that we are a family,” she said.
“Not everybody accepts our lifestyle and that’s fine, we deal with that everyday, but don’t put our family down in front of the kids,” Underwood added.
At the time the women made a complaint, Mark Lowe, executive director of the Lava Hot Springs Foundation, the state-run entity overseeing the springs, noted that Idaho defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. He also said that the foundation, which lacked an explicit definition of its family policy, would discuss the incident at its June 18 board meeting.
After that meeting, the foundation updated the springs’ Web site, lavahotsprings.com, to include its family pass policy. It states that passes are available to adults who have “long-term legal responsibility for … dependant children” and their spouses. Single parents are also eligible for the discount, as are individuals who are raising their younger siblings and single or married individuals raising foster children.
Because the state runs the springs, Lowe also said that the facility has to abide by state law, which prohibits gay marriage. The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, said that the state does not have a legal definition of a family.
Lowe also said Lava Hot Springs may discontinue the family discount pass because of this incident. The springs’ board of directors is expected to make a decision about the passes by the end of the month.