UPDATE: Athletic club changes policy to allow for a gay couple to purchase a “household membership”
More than 35,000 petitioners demanded the operators of a Virginia club open its pool to gay families, and that demand appears to have moved the club to change its policy.
The Change.org petitioners wanted the Carilion Clinic, which owns the Roanoke Athletic Club in Roanoke, Va., to guarantee access to children with gay parents after it stripped a family of its membership.
On July 5, in a post on Facebook, the club announced that it was establishing a “household membership” to cover gay couples and their children. The club, in the announcement, seemed to be trying to avoid referring to gay couples and kids as families.
The posted statement from the club reads, “Our goal has been, and always will be to encourage and inspire health and wellness among all members of the communities we serve.
“In keeping with this goal, and in recognition of the many contemporary households that can benefit from our facilities through discounted membership fees, we are pleased to announce that we have expanded our Family Membership into a new Household Membership with the following criteria:
“A household consists of a primary member and up to one additional household member that permanently lives in the household, and any of their dependent children under the age of 22 who also reside in the household on a permanent basis.
“Club dues will not change; dues for the Household Membership will be the same as the Family Membership it is replacing. There is no requirement to amend your membership, but should this change be advantageous to you, please contact our sales office. If we may answer any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.”
The statement from the club followed increased attention, especially on the Web, to the Change.org petition launched by Roanoke native Mark Lynn Ferguson, who was moved to action after reading a news report about the club’s decision to bar the 2-year-old son of Will Trinkle and Juan Granados from swimming in the club pool.
“Folks in Roanoke are good-hearted and fair-minded, so I was just horrified when I heard how Carilion treated this family,” stated Ferguson. “I kept thinking, ‘Who on Earth would kick a 2-year-old and two caring parents out of a pool?’ You just don’t see stuff like that in Roanoke.”
Trinkle, at a press conference, had said the club’s ban felt like a stomach punch.
“It’s from a place we couldn’t imagine that there would be this kind of discrimination and this kind of attack,” he said. “We have come a long way, but this shows we still have a long way to go.”
The club controversy developed after Trinkle registered under a family plan and paid a membership fee. Then the gay dads brought their son to go swimming. They were refused access and lost their membership because, according to the petition, the club defines family as “a husband, wife and children under 25 living at home.”
Trinkle and Granados filed suit against the club, alleging a breach of contract.
Carilion also provides medical services and operates seven hospitals in the region.
Ferguson, in his petition, asked, “If Carilion won’t give unmarried couples access to a pool, how will it treat them at a hospital?”
Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.