Four lesbian couples have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Idaho's 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment excluding gay couples from marriage.

Idaho's amendment bans same-sex marriage and civil unions. Similar prohibitions appear in state statutes.

The couples, all of whom are from Boise, are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Boise-based attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that the state's marriage laws violate the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“Idaho is part of the great Western tradition that strongly values freedom and fairness,” Ferguson said in an emailed statement. “Most people in this state, like most Americans, believe that the law should respect individual freedom and treat all families equally. The couples in this case deserve to be treated with equal fairness and respect, including having the same freedom to marry that others enjoy.”

The couples, three of whom are raising children, are Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori and Sharene Watsen, Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson.

The Watsens legally married in New York.

Lori said that Idaho treats the pair as if they were strangers.

“We are two dedicated, loving parents who have made work and other life changes to be able to provide our son a loving, safe home, but Idaho does not recognize me as his legal parent, so I have no official status in his life,” Lori said. “We have been forced to go through special legal steps and incur costs to protect our family as much as possible, but those measures cannot replace all of the protections that are given to married couples.”

The case, Latta v. Otter, names Idaho Governor C.L. Butch Otter, a Republican, as a defendant.

Similar lawsuits have proliferated throughout the nation after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prohibited federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples. The court found the law to be unconstitutional.