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Two lesbian couples, one in Lansing and the other in Grand Rapids, are claiming two major social institutions have discriminated against them.
Sarah Himes and her partner Cate tried to sign up for a family membership rate at the Lansing area YMCAs. While the organization’s motto reads: “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities,” Himes and her partner were not included in that definition of family. The YMCA was more than willing to accept the $49 per month fee for a regular membership from each of the women individually, but refused to give them the $19 rate for additional family members living at the same residence.
This was the Okemos Parkwood YMCA’s policy. Undetered, the couple dashed to the downtown Lansing branch of the YMCA where they were allowed to file the application and pay the family rate. However, the application was promptly revoked when the Associate Executive Director Ben Wheeler saw what was happening. According to the couple, Wheeler told them it was improper for the staff member to allow the couple a family rate and he would re-train the staff to make sure such a mistake was never made again.
BTL left repeated messages for Lansing area YMCA Executive Director Tony Fragale, but none were returned at press time.
Fragale did speak with The Lansing Association for Human Rights (LAHR), and the Lansing State Journal.
“We don’t get into personal relationships, we stay out of that,” Fragale told LAHR board member Nancy English. “We choose to follow the definition. It’s the best way for us to stay consistent.”
According to English, Fragale clarified that family was composed of people “legally related and living together.”
English wrote on the LAHR Web site, “I find it difficult to stand by and not do anything regarding this blatant form of discrimination especially since our local YMCA office gets to make the rules. Please e-mail me at: email@example.com, if you have any suggestions or would like to get involved in this matter.”
Doctor lectures against gay marriage
In Grand Rapids, Ashleigh Haberman and Erica Schaub went to Spectrum Health South Pavilion in Cutterville to seek treatment for Schaub’s lingering cold. What they got instead was a lecture from the doctor about their relationship. The two women were married in Ontario, Canada.
The doctor asked Haberman who she was in relation to Schaub. When Haberman told the doctor they were “life partners,” the couple said he launched into a lecture about gay marriage.
“She didn’t even have that out of her mouth before he said, ‘So, what do you guys feel about your ruling in California?'” Haberman recalled in an article in the Grand Rapids Press. “As soon as he looked at us, he knew we were gay and he was looking for an opportunity to start that conversation.”
The couple said the doctor then allegedly said gay marriage “shouldn’t be called marriage” because it is a religious-based word and, as a Christian, he did not consider gay marriage legal.
Spectrum Health has released press statements claiming they expected doctors to act “professionally.”
Meanwhile, Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan, put out a press release praising the doctor.
“First, we commend the physician for telling these two women the simple truth – that under God’s law as well as the laws and constitution of the state of Michigan – marriage is in fact only between one man and one woman, regardless of what activist judges in some other country or state have to say about it,” Glenn wrote in a press release on his Web site.
Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based gay rights and anti-violence group, is working with the women, the Grand Rapids Human Relations Committee and Spectrum Health to address the problem.