Baylor to fight complaint alleging anti-gay discrimination instead of changing gym policy

A top executive at Baylor Health Care System suggested today that the company plans to fight a charge of anti-gay discrimination, rather than reversing a policy that prohibits same-sex couples from purchasing family memberships at the Tom Landry Fitness Center.

Steven Johnson filed a complaint last week under Dallas’ nondiscrimination ordinance against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, after the Health Care System-owned gym refused to allow him to sign up his partner of 23 years as a family member. In response to an Instant Tea post Monday about Johnson’s complaint, the Health Care System’s senior vice president for consumer affairs sent an e-mail to Dallas Voice today.

“John, saw your story about Mr. Johnson’s complaint,” Jennifer Coleman said in the e-mail. “There is now a  significant amount of legal discussion about what the ordinance covers, and our attorneys are involved. It will be a while before it is all sorted out. I will update you when I have something I can discuss.”

My response to Coleman’s e-mail was as follows:

“So in other words Baylor is fighting the complaint on legal grounds rather than just changing the policy? Wouldn’t that be a much easier solution? It seems like this situation can only get worse from a PR standpoint for Baylor.”

As I’ve said previously, there is some question about whether the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination based on marital status. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

I would argue that because gay and lesbian couples can’t legally marry in Texas, discrimination based on marital status is discrimination based on sexual orientation. But in the past the city has taken the opposite position, upholding a landlord’s right to refuse to rent to unmarried (gay) couples.

But my real point is this: Regardless of the legal outcome of the complaint, Baylor loses.

—  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

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

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.”

—  John Wright

Senior VP at Baylor responds to gay couple being denied family gym membership

Jennifer Coleman
Jennifer Coleman

Jennifer Coleman, Baylor Health Care System’s senior vice president for consumer affairs, has commented on the below post about the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center’s refusal to allow gay couples to sign up for family memberships. For my full story on the situation, go here.

I’ve tried calling Coleman in response to her comments, but her assistant tells me she’s at a two-day conference and unavailable. Well, apparently not too unavailable to comment on this blog, but anyhow, it sounds like Coleman is working to address the problem. After the jump, find out what she’s said.

—  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