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.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas LGBT Task Force aims to expand diversity training to all city employees within 3 years

Sherry Durant, Dallas Fire-Rescue LGBT liaison, explains the goal of expanding LGBT training to all city employees at a city services event June 13. The event was the second in the city’s June Pride series. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Fire-Rescue plans to expand its LGBT training program to its veteran employees this summer and eventually to every city employee over the next three years, according to Sherry Durant, the department’s LGBT liaison.

Durant was among six city officials who spoke and answered questions during a panel discussion at the Oak Lawn library branch on Wednesday night. The event drew about 40 people and was the second in Dallas’ “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” June Pride Month series planned by Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force.

Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group has discussed expanding LGBT training to all Dallas city employees and will work with officials to achieve the goal in the future. The only city departments that currently conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training are police and fire.

Durant, who’s served as LGBT liaison for DFR since 2008 and is a member of the Task Force, said 1,048 new recruits have undergone LGBT training since the training program began in 2004. She said she has been working with the Dallas County Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Resource Center Dallas to create a training program for veteran Fire-Rescue employees. The veteran employee training will begin in late July or early August, she said, estimating that it would take about 36 weeks for the 1,248 employees to complete the training.

After DFR finishes its veteran employee training, Durant said she wants to help the veteran police employees undergo the training and then move onto other city departments, so all city employees will have LGBT training within the next three years.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant fire Chief Joseph Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, joined Durant on the panel and shared what their departments offer the LGBT community. Executive Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles and Chalisa Warren, senior public information representative with the Fair Housing Office, spoke about the city’s decade-old nondiscrimination ordinance.

Martin oversees the Police Department’s sensitivity training, which helps recruits understand how to handle interactions with members of the LGBT community. She said she will also teach the current officers over the next two years about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. She said a lot of officers are not aware of how the law works because it is a federal law and affects how departments report hate crime statistics to the FBI.

Suhm said during her 35 years working for the city she has seen a lot of improvements for the LGBT community, from training in the police department in the early ’90s to later working with City Council to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Miles said her section of the city attorney’s office handles the discrimination complaints after the Fair Housing Office investigates, working with the alleged violators to inform them about the ordinance and to help educate them even if the complaint is dismissed for no cause.

Questions about the reporting hate crimes and discrimination under the ordinance came up during the meeting, as several in the audience said people do not report incidents of hate or discrimination because they want it to remain confidential.

—  Dallasvoice

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

Gay couple files discrimination complaint with city of Dallas against Baylor Tom Landry gym

Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson

A gay couple that was denied a family membership at a gym owned by Baylor Health Care System has filed a complaint under the city of Dallas’ nondiscrimination ordinance.

Steven Johnson said he filed the complaint last week with the city’s Fair Housing Office, which investigates alleged violations of the 2002 ordinance. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Earlier this month, Johnson tried to sign up his partner of 23 years as a family member at the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center. Sales representatives at the gym refused, and the facility’s director later confirmed that it doesn’t offer family memberships to same-sex couples.

“Hopefully out of all this will come some changes in their policy,” Johnson told me today. “It’s just an example of the little things we [gay people] have to face every day.”

—  John Wright

Dallas gym won't allow family membership for gay couple that's been together 23 years

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A gay Dallas man claims the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center refused to allow him to add his longtime partner to his gym membership, a possible violation of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Steven Johnson said he’s been with his partner, Roland Crago, for 23 years. Johnson, who works in advertising at The Dallas Morning News, said he tried to add Crago to his gym membership after Crago recently got a job downtown. Now Johnson is calling on the LGBT community to boycott the gym at 411 N. Washington St. in Dallas, which is owned by Baylor University Medical Center.

“I have been going there for the last eight months,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Today I tried to add Roland to my membership — only to learn that they do not accept domestic partners as part of their benefits. I have had numerous health clubs … and all of them have accepted us as family members. So add Tom Landry Fitness Center to your list with Exxon and all the other companies we can not support with our dollars.”

Johnson said gyms where he and Crago have had family memberships in the past include LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness.

Phil Tyne, director of the Tom Landry Fitness Center, said he would look into the matter but seemed to confirm Johnson’s statements.

“We can’t put him on as a spouse if they’re not a married couple,” Tyne said.

Asked whether a same-sex partner could be added as a general family member, Tyne said, “I don’t’ think so.”

Beverly Davis, director of Dallas’ Fair Housing Office, said she’s unsure whether such a policy violates the nondiscrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

But Davis, who oversees the office that investigates complaints under the ordinance, added that she was surprised that a gym in Dallas wouldn’t allow domestic partner memberships.

“It is so common these days to have different family arrangements,” Davis said. “It would seem to me that most people who are in that business ought to be accustomed to that by now, and would easily make an accommodation to recognize that you have all different kinds of families now.”

Johnson said even though he canceled his membership, he’ll have to continue paying for it until September. He said he planned to contact the Fair Housing Office to file a complaint against the gym.

—  John Wright