Baylor to fight complaint alleging anti-gay discrimination instead of changing gym policy

Posted on 25 May 2010 at 11:56am

A top executive at Baylor Health Care System suggested today that the company plans to fight a charge of anti-gay discrimination, rather than reversing a policy that prohibits same-sex couples from purchasing family memberships at the Tom Landry Fitness Center.

Steven Johnson filed a complaint last week under Dallas’ nondiscrimination ordinance against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, after the Health Care System-owned gym refused to allow him to sign up his partner of 23 years as a family member. In response to an Instant Tea post Monday about Johnson’s complaint, the Health Care System’s senior vice president for consumer affairs sent an e-mail to Dallas Voice today.

“John, saw your story about Mr. Johnson’s complaint,” Jennifer Coleman said in the e-mail. “There is now a  significant amount of legal discussion about what the ordinance covers, and our attorneys are involved. It will be a while before it is all sorted out. I will update you when I have something I can discuss.”

My response to Coleman’s e-mail was as follows:

“So in other words Baylor is fighting the complaint on legal grounds rather than just changing the policy? Wouldn’t that be a much easier solution? It seems like this situation can only get worse from a PR standpoint for Baylor.”

As I’ve said previously, there is some question about whether the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination based on marital status. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

I would argue that because gay and lesbian couples can’t legally marry in Texas, discrimination based on marital status is discrimination based on sexual orientation. But in the past the city has taken the opposite position, upholding a landlord’s right to refuse to rent to unmarried (gay) couples.

But my real point is this: Regardless of the legal outcome of the complaint, Baylor loses.

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