Time to revisit membership rules

To the Editor,

I recently inquired about a family membership to the YMCA and Millsop Community Center. In doing so I was advised that I did not qualify for a family membership at either place because I was not married. Instead, I was told I could apply for a single parent with children membership and my significant other could apply for an individual adult membership. This combined option is more expensive than the family membership.

I have lived with my same-sex partner for 15 years. We have three children together ages 9, 7 and 5 for whom she is also the legal parent. While I understand that the board of the YMCA and the board of Millsop center are following the IRS Tax Code in their membership categories, I find their categories exclusionary and socially obsolete. Simply because I cannot get married in West Virginia or Ohio, I cannot get a family membership.

I was approached recently about renewing as a corporate sponsor for the Steubenville YMCA. While I personally and professionally believe in the YMCA’s (and Millsop Community Center’s) mission to improve health and wellness in the community, I morally cannot contribute again this year to an organization that discriminates against a non-married household.

West Virginia and Ohio have two of the highest obesity rates in the country. If we are truly advocating family wellness, we should be inclusionary rather than exclusionary. Many households today are two non-married adults (gender irrelevant) with children. Some are same-sex couples. Some are single parent, grandparent and children. Some are male and female adults cohabitating with children.

Are we really comfortable not offering them the affordable opportunity to exercise together as a family?

In light of today’s changing social climate, I have asked the boards to review this current policy. There is precedent in Ohio and other states including Texas, North Carolina and Illinois, where YMCAs and community centers have changed their membership categories to household memberships.

Rachel Gilman