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Focus on whose family?

Charlotte YMCA rejects same-sex family memberships

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Tom Landry already had a YMCA T-shirt in hand and a facility tour to consider, he said, when a Y employee delivered some surprising news: Landry, his partner and their son could not apply for a family membership.

"I was shocked," he said. "It was embarrassing."

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte, unlike many Y's, is clear: Only husbands, wives and their dependents may get the family discount. Locations in Greensboro and Winston-Salem have similar policies, but ones in Asheville and Durham say any two adults in the same household are eligible to join as a family.

Each Y sets its policy, said Arnold Collins, spokesman for the organization's national office in Chicago. Local spokeswoman Melanie Pittman said the YMCA of Greater Charlotte is reviewing its membership rate structure. She notes single-parent families are charged the same rate as two-parent families. "While we're not looking at any one group in isolation, we are looking at all of our categories as a whole," Pittman said. She wouldn't predict when possible revisions will be announced.

Landry and his family joined the Jewish Community Center instead. He also wrote letters to the local Y, several gay-rights groups and elected officials. His only response was from Mayor Pat McCrory, who sent a two-paragraph reply dated Feb. 9: "Thanks for letting me know about your situation in trying to secure a membership at the YMCA. The YMCA has every right to set their membership criteria, but as you found, Charlotte has many options for health club memberships, including the Jewish Community Center. I'm glad you found something that meets your needs..." Landry said he found the response "arrogant." McCrory's assistant, Dennis Marstall, did not return CL's call.

Sexual orientation is not a protected class under Charlotte's anti-discrimination ordinances, but Landry hopes to alert gays and lesbians to what he says is discriminatory treatment. As a family, it costs $238 for the sign-up fee and first month's dues, according to the Charlotte Y Web site. Separately, it costs $399.

Collins said the issue has come up about a dozen times in the nine years he's been with the Y. "Ys are very inclusive organizations, and I think largely they have moved to keep up with the times," he says.

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