Editor's note: This letter was submitted by former Cuyahoga Falls resident and Patch contributor Kate Bigam.
As a former city employee and an advocate for equal rights, I am disappointed in the not to update the membership rates to encompass all kinds of families. As Patch reported yesterday, Board Chairman Tim Gorbach proposed a motion that would have extended the current couples rate to same-sex couples in legally recognized civil unions, domestic partnerships, or marriages performed out of state. Unfortunately, the board rejected this proposal in a 3-2 vote, disappointing those of us who’d hoped to see the Nat’s policies better reflect the kind of open & welcoming place we expect our city to be.
Had the board voted to accept Gorbach’s proposal, they would have put an immediate end to the controversy that has become an embarrassing black mark on our city. More than 5,700 people have signed the Mays’ petition to change the Nat’s current membership categories, and their story has gone national, garnering the attention of news outlets such as USA Today and the Huffington Post. Yet, despite this overwhelming support, Mayor Robart has expressed his opposition to the category change, citing as-yet-unsubstantiated claims that expanding the family membership category would cause financial difficulties for the Nat (the Nat currently has more than 100 different rates categories for membership, so it’s curious that there’s no possible way to embrace equality).
Critics of this proposed change have raised a number of concerns, all of which have easy answers:
- Why is a gym membership is worthy of such hullabaloo?
American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Shane and Coty want the same rights the rest of us have, and they’re shocked by the city’s blatant disregard for those rights.
- Why don’t the Mays join a different gym?
Coty, an injured Iraq War veteran, uses the Nat’s therapy pool for rehabilitation, making our city’s facility the best option for his healing. The Mays were individual members of the Nat before getting married – and certainly it’s not outlandish for a married couple to expect to receive the discount offered to married couples.
- Would changing the Nat’s policies attract fraud?
The Nat currently requires legal documentation from heterosexual couples as proof of their union. The Mays, too, have a marriage license, and any couple entered into a civil union or domestic partnership will have similar documentation.
- Why don’t you try to change the state’s marriage law instead?
We are! Across the country, civil rights activists are working to establish marriage equality at the state level. However, nothing in Ohio's state law would prohibit the Nat from recognizing same-sex couples, so local activists have embraced this opportunity to pursue equality on a city level, as well.
We should all be ashamed of the Nat’s current discriminatory policy and of yesterday’s vote: Cuyahoga Falls is better than this. Fortunately, City Council has the authority to override the Parks and Recreation Board’s decision, and I sincerely hope they will do so. The City of Cuyahoga has nothing to lose by embracing equality – and its dignity to lose if City Council chooses not to.
To provide balanced coverage, we want to hear from those who oppose a restructuring of the Nat's rate policies. Email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll pick the most well-structured argument and post it this Monday.