By Tara Cavanaugh
When Leslie Ann Thompson tried to put her current partner on as an associate member to her AAA roadside assistance coverage last fall, she thought it was just going to be a quick matter of paperwork. She’s been a member since 1974, and has had two other domestic partners on as associate members.
This time was different. The form to add an associate member had changed, so she had to call. Over the phone, a AAA customer service representative told her that she couldn’t add her partner Cindy as a new associate member because they weren’t married.
Associate members have slightly cheaper memberships; Thompson’s is $51 per month, and adding an associate would cost another $38. Although it’s only a twelve-dollar difference, Thompson said it’s not about the money: It’s about the principal of the matter.
Thompson talked with customer service reps and supervisors on several occasions. They all told her not offering her partner Cindy an associate membership was a matter of Michigan law.
“I said there’s no such law. This is anti-gay,” she said.
“I share health insurance with my partner. Car insurance. Our names are on the title to our house. You’re telling me I can’t get an associate membership?”
What’s most frustrating is that “they changed it and won’t acknowledge it,” she said. “Even their forms are changed.”
Nancy Cain, the public relations representative at AAA Michigan, said she was never aware that AAA Michigan offered associate memberships for domestic partners. (AAA state and regional branches can establish their own rules on the issue.)
“To be an associate member our bylaws say (qualifying individuals are) the spouse, son or daughter of a general member,” and must live in the same house as the general member, she said.
“We follow the law. The Michigan law. Domestic partnerships are not recognized in Michigan. So it wouldn’t be recognized in Michigan’s (AAA branch).”
Thompson said when she called to complain again in January, “They kept asking if I wanted to renew Colleen, a previous partner,” Thompson said. “They had her name listed as an ex-associate member of mine. So they have proof they used to let me do this.”
Thompson plans to write a letter to AAA, but she’s not sure the letter will make a difference, because she was told to send it to the same department that she talked to over the phone.
“There’s no one with any authority around this that you can actually talk to,” she said. She hopes writing her letter encourages others to write and complain too.
“There’s a lot of people who think (the policy) is anti-gay who would use their services,” she said.