Gay couple accuses Baylor-owned gym of ‘draconian and bigoted practices’

For the second time in less than a year, a popular East Dallas gym owned by Baylor Health Care System is under fire for blatantly discriminating against gay couples.

Last May, a gay couple filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, which has a stated policy of refusing to offer family memberships to same-sex couples. The couple’s complaint was filed under a city of Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

However, the couple later withdrew the complaint after they said city officials told them the Tom Landry Fitness Center may be exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

Now, another gay couple plans to file its own discrimination complaint against the Fitness Center if the policy isn’t reversed. Alan Rodriguez, who recently moved to Dallas with his partner of 10 years, says he was told by the director of the Fitness Center that Baylor defines family as “one man and one woman.”

Rodriguez, who’s renovating a home on Gaston Avenue with his partner, said he chooses to live and work in Dallas largely because of the ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. He also said he goes to the Fitness Center for allergy shots and considers the gym a “neighborhood friend,” but was shocked to learn about the family membership policy.

“It is clear Baylor has taken the position to discriminate against gay people with respect to family gym membership. It is also clear Baylor has a regimented policy excluding domestic partners from the definition of ‘family,’” Rodriguez wrote Tuesday in a letter to a Baylor executive that was also sent to Instant Tea. “Therefore, I must conclude your organization also believes it lawful to discriminate against gay people regarding other medical services. Clearly, your organization considers this policy a legal form of discrimination. It remains unclear the extent to which this policy permeates all Baylor operations. Such draconian and bigoted practices are unthinkable in 2011.”

—  John Wright

Gay couple married via Skype files complaint against DMN for not publishing announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C. via Skype.

Reed- Walkup said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section. But the newspaper has refused due to a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy reportedly is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, constitute a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, said she didn’t receive the complaint until Monday.

“We just got it,” Davis said Monday afternoon. “I haven’t had time to make an assessment yet.”

The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

Mayfield, who likened gays to prostitutes and drug users, attacks Fitzsimmons for being short

Ken Mayfield

Earlier we quoted openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons as saying that County Commissioner Ken Mayfield is “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

Now Mayfield, a Republican, has responded by attacking Fitzsimmons, a Democrat, for being short.

The Dallas Morning News picked up our report and sought a comment from Mayfield. According to the DMN, Mayfield responded by calling Fitzsimmons “a little man with a little mind.”

Mayfield also insisted he’s not anti-gay and challenged Fitzsimmons to give examples of his allleged homophobia. Well, allow us to share just one:

In 1995, Mayfield and two other commissioners wrote a letter to 43 local doctors urging them to support the county’s ban on distribution of condoms by the Health Department to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Here’s what Mayfield and the two other commissioners wrote, according to an article that appeared in The DMN on Friday, June 16, 1995.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” the three commissioners wrote. “And, we don’t intend to be the vehicle through which others are given this message.”

Mayfield continued to support the condom ban until last year, when he opposed a measure that successfully lifted it.

Mayfield’s Democratic opponent this year, Dr. Elba Garcia, helped push through two major pro-equality measures during her time on the Dallas City Council. The first was a citywide ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The second was benefits for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.

—  John Wright