Tennessee YMCA denies family rate to gay couples

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 10 2002 1:00 AM ET

Efforts by the YMCA of Middle Tennessee to ensure that couples obtaining a family membership are married with children have angered gay rights activists, reports The Tennessean of Nashville.

While the definition of family has not changed at any of the 21 centers in middle Tennessee, YMCA officials say they decided to step up enforcement of the policy this year--when they noticed membership "inconsistencies."

Gay rights activists say many gays and lesbians have enrolled as families and couples at YMCAs throughout the region.

Phil Newman, a spokesman for YMCA of Middle Tennessee, said that while all of the centers are open to gays and lesbians, same-sex couples as well as unmarried opposite-sex couples do not qualify for membership as families or couples.

''The definition of the family is rooted in the YMCA's historical mission, our community's traditional definition of a family, and the state's definition of a family,'' Newman said.

Officials at the YMCA national headquarters say individual YMCAs and associations of YMCAs are free to create any policy regarding family membership. Some YMCAs define families broadly as two or more adults with children, while others specify marital status, said Arnold Collins, YMCA spokesman.

"All 2,400 of our YMCAs are created community by community, and they reflect the values of those communities," Collins said. "We usually advise the centers to start a dialogue with the community and come up with a definition that fits."