VA may withhold home loan from Dallas gay couple over Texas marriage ban

department_of_veterans_affairs_round_stickers-rc853e2f1e5b943d88d67df4ae0b8863c_v9waf_8byvr_512Dallas couple former Army Sgt. Earl Rector and Alan Rodriguez were surprised Tuesday when they were told that the Veterans Affairs Department may not give them a home loan because the office won’t count the income of the non-veteran spouse in states where same-sex marriage isn’t recognized.

The couple sold their home in November and got married later that month in Seattle before signing a contract on a new home. But when they found out they might not get the veterans home loan, their plans of owning the new home became jeopardized.

“We found out yesterday that VA told our lender that they would not guarantee the loan,” Rector told the Marine Corps Times. The notice came eight days before closing, and “after we were pre-approved weeks ago,” he said.

The couple could not immediately be reached for comment.

While the lender is dealing with the VA to ensure the loan is issued to the couple, this isn’t the first instance where a non-marriage-equality state has denied a veterans home loan to a same-sex couple.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is currently considering legislation that would order the VA to recognize same-sex couples in every state instead of the state’s definition of marriage.

But in the meantime, the Rector and Rodriguez could face a breach of contract penalty if the loan doesn’t go through.

“The seller is an attorney, which could make our lives difficult,” Rector said.

“Our financing bank is doing everything they can, but the VA approval process has been ambiguous and now appears impossibly complex and arbitrary.”

—  Anna Waugh

City releases file from complaint against Baylor for anti-gay discrimination

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Alan Rodriguez, right, filed a complaint with the city in February 2011 after the Tom Landry Fitness Center refused to issue him and his partner a family membership. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The Dallas city attorney’s office has released most of its records related to a complaint against Baylor’s Tom Landry Fitness Center filed under the city’s sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinance.

After few answers from the city attorney’s office about why we weren’t permitted to view the file a few weeks ago, we were told earlier this week we could view the file, except for some communications that were considered protected by attorney-client privilege. The city has asked the Texas attorney general’s office to review that information and render an opinion about whether it should be released.

In October, the city attorney’s office said the case was closed after officials with Baylor Health Care System agreed to end all family memberships. Alan Rodriguez and his longtime partner were denied a family membership discount in February 2011 because they are a same-sex couple, and they filed a complaint under the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

The city attorney’s office closed the case in exchange for Baylor’s commitment to end all family memberships. But a timeline of when discussions about ending the memberships took place wasn’t provided, nor was it contained in the file we reviewed today.

According to the file, Baylor’s representatives continued to request that the case be dismissed on the grounds that Tom Landry is a private club and a religious organization — and that Baylor recognizes married couples as outlined by Texas law. The case was sent to the city attorney in mid-June 2011, and the last date on on a request for information from the city attorney’s office is Oct. 19, 2011.

The final investigative report was completed Nov. 3, 2011, and mentioned that Baylor would have to prove a specific membership to be considered a religious organization, and that the ordinance doesn’t protect private clubs, only religious and government entities.

—  Anna Waugh

Baylor gym ends family memberships, but gay discrimination case still open

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WE ARE FAMILY | Alan Rodriguez, right, and his partner were denied a family membership at the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, a popular gym in East Dallas. Rodriguez alleges Baylor is violating the city’s ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The Tom Landry Fitness Center in East Dallas recently stopped offering family memberships, but the discrimination case filed last year after the gym refused to sell a family membership to a gay couple is still open.

The gym owned by Baylor Health Care System refused to sell Alan Rodriguez and his partner of 10 years a family membership in February 2011.

Phil Tyne, director of Baylor’s Tom Landry Fitness Center, told Instant Tea that the gym stopped offering family memberships three months ago because it lowered overall costs and now only offers individual memberships.

“We decided to lower all rates across the board,” he said.

Tyne said he was aware that the gym was involved in a discrimination case but said he did not know if the decision to change the membership structure was related to the case.

Rodriguez said he thought the problem had been resolved, though he had not heard that the memberships were no longer offered.

“Sounds like they both increased revenue and avoided providing discriminatory and potentially illegal services,” he told Instant Tea.

Beverly Davis, assistant director of Dallas’ Fair Housing Office, said the case is still waiting for a determination from the city attorney’s office, which is the same status it had back in June when it was featured in a Dallas Voice cover story about the 10-year anniversary of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Davis said she was unaware of any attempt at a settlement with Baylor regarding the case and said the membership decision appeared to be separate.

—  Anna Waugh

UPDATE: City still reviewing complaint of anti-gay discrimination against Baylor-owned gym

The city of Dallas is in “the final stages” of reviewing an allegation of anti-gay discrimination against the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, a city official told Instant Tea this week.

Gay Dallas resident Alan Rodriguez filed a complaint in January against the Fitness Center, after the popular East Dallas gym refused to offer a family membership to Rodriguez and his longtime partner.

Rodriguez’s complaint was filed under a Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Rodriguez said he has declined an offer from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, to enter arbitration.

“I don’t know that there’s any room to compromise,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not middle ground to reach to.”

In a letter he penned to a Baylor executive before filing the complaint, Rodriguez accused the Fitness Center of “draconian and bigoted practices” that are “unthinkable in 2011.”

In response to Rodriguez’s email, the Baylor executive confirmed that the Fitness Center offers family memberships only “to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage.” Baylor’s attorneys reportedly are arguing that the Fitness Center is a private health club and not a public accommodation.

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, declined further comment this week.

Beverly Davis, director of the Fair Housing Office, said she is unsure when officials will decide whether to prosecute Rodriguez’s complaint.

“All I can tell you is that it’s in the final stages of review,” Davis said. “I wish I could give you a definite date, but right now I don’t have a definite date.”

Rodriguez’s complaint is one of more than 50 that have been filed under the nondiscrimination ordinance since it took effect in 2002. However, none of the complaints has ever been prosecuted by the city. Each violation of the ordinance punishable by a fine of up to $500.

—  John Wright