Tyler YMCA accused of discriminating against LGBT families

Why is it that health clubs in Texas seem to be more afraid of LGBT families than any other type of business? In Dallas, Baylor eliminated family memberships rather than give a family membership to one gay couple.

Now, in Tyler, a lesbian couple wants to join the YMCA, but the organization won’t allow them to.

Well, the YMCA did allow them to join as a family when their 10-year-old son was on the swim team. But now that the organization doesn’t get anything out of deal, the YMCA reportedly says no.

We reached the office of YMCA of Tyler CEO Stuart Gilpin to get their comment, but he did not return a call.

Suzy Sheridan, one of the lesbian moms, created a Change.org petition that she wants others to sign to encourage the YMCA to be more family-friendly to all families. The petition already has more than 4,000 signatures.

Sheridan could not immediately be reached for further comment. Here’s her story from Change.org:

The Tyler YMCA has discriminated against my family and denied letting us join under the family plan because we are not a traditional family. My life partner and I have been together for over twenty years and have a 20 year old son. We also assist another young man who has lived with us nearly two years. I was told I would have to produce a marriage certificate before they would let us join under the family plan. I told them that was not possible since I live in Texas and our long time relationship was not recognized in this state. I told them that I felt they were being discriminatory. What’s ironic is that they didn’t have a problem letting us join under the family plan when our son swam on their swim team 10 years ago. I feel they should have a policy across the board for all their facilities allowing all types of families to join their organization.

—  David Taffet

Body & Fitness: Excess baggage

Duke Nelson, above, opts for the more personal environment and one-on-one training he gets at Trainer Daddy Fitness Studio. Smaller facilities are trending as an alternative to big gym memberships. (Photo by Rich Lopez)

Admitting to yourself that you don’t use your gym membership is the first step to recovery — the next is figuring exactly what to do now that you’re over it

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer

Drat those New Year resolutions. Every year for the majority of the population, the first day of the new year is the day to start getting in shape. With the onslaught of gym membership advertisements offering steals of a deal, joining one is clearly the right thing to do. Hey, this writer did it.

The only thing is — weeks (and in some cases months) later, you can count the check-ins on one hand. In the meantime, you’re bank account is depleted on a monthly basis. Frustrated? Broke? Buyer’s remorse? Join the club. But there are some options on what to do with that membership.

Cancel your membership: Well, this is the obvious first step. Hopefully you’ve signed on to a monthly plan that will make this a whole lot easier. Just be strong.

“When you let a health club or fitness center continue to bill you for a membership that you no longer use you are throwing money away,” local trainer J.R. Brown says. “I believe they pick a price point that you won’t miss every month and hope that canceling is just too much work and some gyms make the cancellation process almost impossible.”

A recent call to 24 Hour Fitness to cancel a membership was, overall, easy. But they didn’t go down without a fight. Brown has definitely seen this first hand.

“We will offer you a coupon for an hour of personal training while you reconsider,” said Raymond (just Raymond) at 24 Hour’s membership services line. So if you change your mind, you get the coupon — not get the coupon to change your mind. It was baffling but felt, you know, wrong.

After that was declined, an offer of putting the membership on hold was next. A monthly expense of $38 was being charged, but for $7 a month, it would go on hold for six months. Since it was akin to paying for nothing, this wasn’t overly enticing.

Once Raymond had finished his attempts, he was quite amiable about the total cancellation. The customer service was good and compelling, but never aggressive or guilt inducing.

Sell that sucker: Bigger named gyms likely don’t allow this, but check with your smaller ones. Less corporate types just want to be sure they get paid. Head to Craigslist to post or even buy a membership.

Consider gym alternatives: Yes, it’s nice to think you’ll be going every day after work to the gym, but try to be realistic . Do you have commitment issues? Do crowds bug you?

Consider a training studio that offers training in a smaller gym environment rather than a place to go to with gym equipment.

“At least spend the money where it will do you some good,” Brown adds.

His studio, Trainer Daddy, offers working out in a different fashion and the trend is growing among newer mixed-use developments and their in-house gyms. Trainers work with residents and, of course, clients offering supervised training rather than leaving you to your own devices. Plus, if they are like Brown, there can be no monthly fee and you can skip the crowds.

“Some people prefer a more private environment and they only get charged for training,” he says.

Wait it out: This isn’t about sticking it to the gyms out there. Sometimes we don’t read the fine print and just have to stick with what we started with. This is the time to research what the gym offers that may interest you. Classes may have more appeal than working out without direction. Network with people you know to workout as a group or in pairs. And gyms like 24 Hour offer online fitness training available to members.

The website eHow.com covers the topic of how to motivate yourself in going to the gym. They suggest to “think of the gym as a place to relax, not to work… as a change of scenery from the office and the house, not something obligatory.”

Yeah, right.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

OUTRAGE: Baylor Health Care System confirms that it doesn’t consider your family a family

Jennifer Coleman

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, has yet to respond to our request for comment from Wednesday about the Tom Landry Fitness Center’s policy of blatantly discriminating against same-sex couples.

However, Coleman did respond to a letter from Alan Rodriguez, the gay East Dallas resident who’s planning to file a discrimination complaint against the Baylor-owned Fitness Center for refusing to sell a family membership to him and his partner of 10 years.

“Thank you for your e-mail and phone call,” Coleman wrote in an e-mail to Rodriguez, which he provided to Instant Tea. “The Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center offers, and will continue to offer, a family discount to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage. The fitness center is a private membership health club that is open to all applicants who meet membership criteria that are non-discriminatory. The fitness center has and welcomes a diverse membership.”

We’ve heard several people in the LGBT community comment that if the Fitness Center wants to discriminate against same-sex couples, people should simply take their money and memberships elsewhere.

And while this is certainly true, there are a few other problems: One, the Baylor Health Care System operates a dozen medical facilities in North Texas alone, which is downright scary in light of this policy; and two, the city of Dallas has an ordinance that prohibits this type of discrimination — in the same way that state and federal law prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of things like race.

Unfortunately, the city doesn’t seem to want to enforce the ordinance. As we’ve said repeatedly, more than 40 c0mplaints have been filed since the ordinance passed in 2002, but not one has every been prosecuted by the city.

Steven Johnson, a gay man who filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center last year, says he withdrew it after city officials advised him that the gym is exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

But that’s a bunch of bullshit. The ordinance provides no exception for private clubs.

We’ve been playing phone tag with Beverly Davis of the city’s Fair Housing Office, which is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance, to find out whether it’s true that officials advised Johnson to withdraw his complaint.

We’ll let you know when we get in touch with Davis and/or Coleman.

In case you’re wondering, Coleman can be reached by e-mail at jennifco@BaylorHealth.edu.

—  John Wright