This morning I woke up thinking, “I think I wanna take a water aerobics class at the YMCA.” Once I get a thought in my head, I run with it. By 8:30am, I was standing at the front desk at my local Beloit, Wisconsin YMCA completing membership paperwork.
I signed up for the Single Parent Household (SPH) membership: a one parent household that has dependents below the age of 18 (or age 23, if they’re still in college). Those dependents have to be people a single parent can legally claim on her/his federal taxes. A 6-month SPH membership costs $379 total.
While I waited for the front desk clerk to process membership IDs for me and my two teenagers, we engaged in idle chat about the weather and the economy. As a sidenote, I asked the clerk, “Does the Y allow same-sex domestic partners to take advantage of the family membership?” The clerk responded with, “No. We only allow a mom-and-dad household to use the family membership because that’s what a family is: a mom, a dad, and their children.”
Is she for real?
A real family consists of a man and a woman?
I was in a great mood this morning and I wasn’t about to let some narrow-minded front desk peon ruin my day. I remained silent, finished up my paperwork, then headed home to think about how I would handle the situation.
At about 10am, I called the YMCA and asked to speak to the Executive Director, Mike Ace. I told Mr. Ace that I was offended by his front desk clerk who informed me that a real family consisted of a man, a woman, and their children. I told him that as a lesbian mother of two who is in a relationship with a woman, I was very offended by her comments. Mr. Ace apologized profusely and stated that he was sure the clerk never intended to offend me and that she was most likely only doing her job. Since the YMCA is federally funded 501(c)(3) organization, they are obligated to define family the way the federal government defines a family. Any federal funds the YMCA receives cannot be used to provide funding to non-traditional families not officially recognized by the federal government.
I want to pause for a second and (again) thank Bill and Hillary Clinton for giving the LGBTQ community DOMA:
1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) need treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
2. The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.
The second part of DOMA makes it impossible for same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights as married heterosexual couples – even at your local YMCA.
Mr. Ace informed me that even though the federal government does not allow their organization to use federal funds to provide discounted membership rates to same-sex couples, the organization has been discussing various ways to address the issue. One possible solution (and Mr. Ace did not make any promises about this) was to push some of the organization’s private funds over so they can be used to help same-sex couples offset the cost of their membership. Other non-traditional families (like unmarried heterosexual couples living with children, grandparents raising children, and divorced heterosexual couples still living together) will also be allowed to use private funds to help offset the cost of their membership.
Mr. Ace made it very clear that this has been an issue the YMCA has been addressing for a little while now. He also stated that all the Executive Directors for Wisconsin YMCAs will be meeting soon and the topic of non-traditional families is on the agenda. His final comment was, “How the YMCA views families is changing, but that change is coming slowly.”