Is gym policy just the tip of the anti-gay iceberg at Baylor hospital in Dallas?

Posted on 07 May 2010 at 2:25pm
Steven Johnson was denied a family membership for his partner of 23 years
Steven Johnson was denied a family membership for his partner of 23 years

I finally got ahold of Jennifer Coleman, the Baylor Health Care System’s senior vice president for consumer affairs, to talk about the Tom Landry Fitness Center’s policy barring gays and lesbians from signing up their domestic partners as family members.

As I reported in today’s Voice, the Health Care System-owned Fitness Center refused to allow a gay couple of 23 years to sign up for a family membership earlier this week. This is a possible violation of the city of Dallas’ nondiscrimination ordinance, and the couple is calling on the LGBT community to boycott the 7,000-member gym. (Most members are among the system’s 15,000 employees.)

Coleman said she just learned about the situation this morning.

“Were going to look and see about that policy, what it says, and then I’m not sure what we’re going to do next,” Coleman said. “I can’t commit to changing it, because that’s not a decision for me to make, but something for us to look into. It’s unfortunate that this thing came up this way, but I can commit [that] we’ll sure look into it.”

I explained to Coleman that most Fortune 500 corporations (59 percent) now offer domestic partner benefits. I also told her that LGBT people make up a disproportionate share of gym customers, so it probably doesn’t make good business sense to discriminate against us.

“We want to see what other clubs are doing, how they handle it,” she said.

She mentioned the possibility of abuses if people aren’t required to be married to obtain family memberships. But I told her the gym could require some other type of proof, such as a domestic partner registration.

“It sounds like it could be done simply, but we really want to spend a little time and look into it,” she said. “I’m still trying to get my hands on this policy or whatever precedent we have been using to see what it says.”

Coleman noted that the Health Care System is no longer legally affiliated with Baylor University, the Baptist school in Waco.

She also insisted that the hospital doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people when it comes to visitation.

But the nonprofit Health Care System obviously still has strong religious roots, and Coleman confirmed that its nondiscrimination policy doesn’t include sexual orientation.

To me, it’s unthinkable that such a major employer in a city like Dallas still lacks the most basic protections for gay and lesbian workers.

And so I guess the gym issue is just the tip of the iceberg.

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